Support International Protection for Rays and Sharks under CITES

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Support International Protection for Rays and Sharks under CITES

This petition made change with 3,356 supporters!
Shark Stewards started this petition to US Secretary David Bernhardt and US Fish and Wildlife Director Aurelia Skipwith

Dear Secretary of the Interior Bernhardt and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Director Skipwith,

We would like to express our great appreciation for co-sponsoring proposals to support Appendix II listing for sharks, rays and other marine species CITES at the Conference of the Parties ("CoP18") convening in May of 2019 in Colombo, Sri Lanka. We commend your leadership in taking these critical steps towards regulating the international trade of these threatened and endangered species. 

The inclusion of 10 species of shark and shark-like rays in Appendix II will ensure that international trade is sustainable, legally acquired, and traceable.

We urge you to support the species of shark and shark-like rays as a priority including:

1. Mako sharks (Isurus oxyrinchus, I. paucus) 
Introduced by Mexico due the global decline including loss in Pacific US waters,  this proposal will include the Short fin mako (I. oxyrinchus ) and look-alike species  Long fin mako (I. paucus) in Appendix II. Short fin and long fin makos are threatened globally due to direct and indirect fishing and the international demand for their meat and fins. Especially impacted in Atlantic waters by longline tuna boats and direct fishing, this proposal is sponsored by 28 Parties, including the European Union. Short fin mako is a highly migratory species of large shark distributed throughout temperate and tropical ocean waters. Today, their geographical distribution is highly compromised by the effects of bycatch as well as international fishing vessels who target their fins for the meat trade. According to (FAO), total landings of short fin mako have increased by 69% in 2010-2016 compared to 2004-2009 (FAO, 2019). During 2014-2015, short fin mako were the fifth most observed species in the shark fin trade through Hong Kong's main commercial center. Long fin mako (Isurus paucus) are very similar in appearance to the short fin mako, making it very difficult to distinguish between shark species, and their parts and products caught for the international fin trade.  To ensure the survival of these species, it is critical that the United States join as co-sponsors of this proposal to include mako sharks in Appendix II in CITES.

2. Wedgefish:
Sponsored by 36 Parties including the European Union, the proposal to include the white-spotted wedge fish (Rynchobatus australiae and Rynchobatus djiddensis), as well as all remaining species of wedge fish in the Rhinidae family, in Appendix II is vital to ensuring that all species of wedge fish are protected from illegal trade. Populations of white-spotted wedge fish have seen significant declines of up to 80% of their total population in particular regions. With the addition of the global footprint of tangle and gillnet fisheries as well as their high fin value in international trade, similar declines are likely to occur in much of the species range. Guitarfish and wedge fish have a specific trade category ("Qun Chi") in the Hong Kong Shark trade market, and this trade category has the highest value of any fin type in trade, selling for as much as $800 USD/KG. Both of the species commonly referred to as white-spotted wedge fish are included as "Qun Chi". This makes Rhinidae family among the twenty most frequently traded elasmobranch families. The primary threat to these species is unsustainable and unregulated fisheries mortality throughout their range. Both species are caught by artisanal and commercial fisheries both as a target species and as bycatch in demersal trawl, net, and longline fisheries with retention incentivized due to the very high value of their fins in international trade. To ensure the survival of wedge fish, it is crucial that the United States join as a co-sponsor to the proposal to include them in Appendix II of CITES.

3. Guitarfish:
Intorduced by Sri Lanka, the proposal to include the black chin guitarfish (Glaucostegus cemiculos), sharp nose guitarfish (Glaucostegus granulatus), and the genus Glauscostegus in Appendix II is currently sponsored by 27 Parties, including the European Union. Guitarfish are vulnerable to threats from habitat loss to overfishing. The dramatic population declines were reported nearly three decades before a global strategy was initiated in an attempt to manage them. These measures arrived too late and recovery is unlikely for many populations. In 2016, the food and agriculture organization of the United States (FAO) reported that 5,000 tons of guitarfish were landed globally in 2014. Giant guitarfish fins are sold in Hong Kong, Guangzhuo and in auction and sale in Oman and the United Arab Emirates. Regulation of international trade through an Appendix II listing for this species is necessary to ensure that giant guitarfish populations do not follow the closely related sawfishes, by declining to the point where they now require listing on Appendix I.

We respectfully urge that you join us in support of all proposed elasmobranch species at the CITES 18th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties in Colombo, Sri Lanka this May.

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