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Major conservation win at CITES as a record 18 endangered species of shark and ray are afforded vital protection


26 Aug 2019


Climate & Environment

(Geneva, Switzerland – 25 August 2019) – A total of 18 species of shark and ray, at risk due to the scale of international trade in their fins and meat, have today been awarded key Appendix II protections by the 18th Conference of the Parties (CoP18) of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

Supportive governments taking part in the 183-Party strong CoP18 in Geneva, Switzerland, voted overwhelmingly in favour of awarding the Appendix II listing to the 18 species, enabling the proposals to achieve the necessary two-thirds majority to pass.

The listing covers the endangered shortfin and longfin mako shark, along with six species of giant guitarfish and 10 species of wedgefish. Of the giant guitarfish and wedgefish species on the listing, all except one of the wedgefish species are critically endangered.

Megan O’Toole, IFAW’s Senior Programme Manager, International Policy, welcomed the decision, saying: “IFAW is delighted with today’s outcome for so many shark and ray species whose survival is in jeopardy due to international demand for their fins, meat and other products. An Appendix II listing is an important step, limiting trade to sustainable levels. There is a real global momentum to save these species - once overfished it takes a very long time for populations to recover, so we are very pleased that the listing was granted before it was too late.

“This CITES CoP has shown that effective shark management is a global priority for governments, an incredible change from where we were 10 years ago, when shark conservation was seen as a fringe issue. As we went into CoP18 we already had more than 60 governments pledge formal support for the species proposed for listing, more than any other proposals in the history of the convention and more went on to back them in today’s vote.”

Makos, the fastest sharks in the sea, are among the few species of shark that are warm-blooded, enabling them to travel at speeds which most speedboats cannot compete with.

Giant guitarfishes (named for their guitar-like shape), and wedgefishes are flat-bodied shark-like rays, adapted for living close to the seabed. Of all shark species, giant guitarfishes and wedgefishes are considered to be at greatest risk of extinction.

More than half of sharks and their relatives are recognised as being threatened or near threatened with extinction and at least 100 million sharks are killed annually in commercial fisheries. While much progress has been made to better manage these species globally, around 83% of the international shark fin trade that drives high levels of shark catch is unregulated, leaving these marine animals which all play a vital role in the ocean ecosystem in peril.

O’Toole added: “Previous CITES listings have resulted in regulatory changes for sharks and rays in many countries, often for the first time - which is why listings like this are so significant - and we look forward to working with Parties to ensure effective implementation continues with these listings as well. Many of these species are at a tipping point and it is vital we continue efforts to protect them for future generations.”

The mako sharks listing was passed by 102 votes in support, with 40 against and five abstentions. The giant guitarfishes listing was passed by 109 votes in support, with 30 against and four abstentions, while the wedgefishes listing was passed by 112 votes in support, with 30 against and four abstentions. All votes were taken in secret ballot.

Where issues achieved the two-thirds majority by a narrow margin, it is possible they could be brought back to the floor for further consideration in plenary sessions towards the end of the conference.

CoP18 today entered its second week and is scheduled to run until this Wednesday.

IFAW works in more than 40 countries, to rescue and protect animals and their habitats, for a world where animals and people can thrive together. A team of IFAW experts are attending CITES CoP18 and are available for interview throughout.


For more information or to arrange interviews with IFAW experts please contact Clare Sterling on mobile +44 (0)7917 507717, email, or Christina Pretorius on mobile +41 779 114253 or +27 (0) 82 330 2558, email Skype interviews can be arranged on request.

CITES information and documents are available here:

IFAW is tweeting updates from the proceedings via various accounts including @Action4IFAW and @IFAWUK

Images and footage are available for media use

Notes to Editors - The mako sharks listing was proposed by Bangladesh, Benin, Bhutan, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Chad, Cote d’Ivoire, Dominican Republic, Egypt, European Union, Gabon, Gambia, Jordan, Lebanon, Liberia, Maldives, Mali, Mexico, Nepal, Niger, Nigeria, Palau, Samoa, Senegal, Sri Lanka, Sudan and Togo.

The giant guitarfishes listing was proposed by Bangladesh, Benin, Bhutan, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Chad, Cote d’Ivoire, Egypt, European Union, Gabon, Gambia, Maldives, Mali, Mauritania, Monaco, Nepal, Niger, Nigeria, Palau, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka, Syrian Arab Republic, Togo and Ukraine.

The wedgefishes listing was proposed by Bangladesh, Benin, Bhutan, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Chad, Cote d’Ivoire, Egypt, Ethiopia, European Union, Fiji, Gabon, Gambia, India, Jordan, Kenya, Lebanon, Maldives, Mali, Mexico, Monaco, Nepal, Niger, Nigeria, Palau, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Seychelles, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syrian Arab Republic, Togo and Ukraine.

About the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) - The International Fund for Animal Welfare is a global non-profit helping animals and people thrive together. We are experts and everyday people, working across seas, oceans and in more than 40 countries around the world. We rescue, rehabilitate and release animals, and we restore and protect their natural habitats. The problems we’re up against are urgent and complicated. To solve them, we match fresh thinking with bold action. We partner with local communities, governments, non-governmental organisations and businesses. Together, we pioneer new and innovative ways to help all species flourish. See how at