Modern forms of sharks and rays first emerged over 150 million years ago. But the introduction of modern fishing techniques has spelled disaster for these ancient creatures. Irresponsible and unsustainable fishing practices has led to a massive decline in shark numbers—a huge jolt to ocean ecosystems in little over 50 years.
The most serious declines have been in the Coral Triangle and the Mediterranean. Many shark species are slow growing, late to mature and produce few young, making them highly susceptible to over-fishing. Sharks are caught both for their fins—eaten as a delicacy in sharks fin soup in Asia, and for their meat, with Europe a major market. Removal of these key predators from the food chain has serious consequences for marine ecosystems, which in turn has repercussions for people everywhere, threatening local livelihoods and food security.
different species of sharks have been recorded in our oceans
of the Mediterranean's shark and ray species are at risk of extinction according to IUCN
are responsible for dangerous levels of bycatch in many parts of the world
tonnes of shark fins were exported into Singapore between 2005–2007 and 2012–2014
Sharks are caught both for their fins—eaten as a delicacy in sharks fin soup in Asia, and for their meat, with Europe a major consumer market.
Over-fishing is a major concern, with up to a 100 million sharks caught internationally each year and many ray species fished for consumption in Asian markets. Traceability throughout shark and ray trade would make major inroads to conserving threatened populations, and much of TRAFFIC’s work in this area is dedicated to helping develop the national and international systems and agreements to ensure sustainable and traceable trade.
Many of our oceans are being dangerously over-exploited, threatening species of sharks and rays across the world. Traceability is essential to ensure sustainable tradeGlenn Sant, TRAFFIC's Programme Leader for Fisheries trade
The Global Shark and Ray Initiative (GSRI) is a recent collaborative project working to address the crisis facing sharks and rays.
Its goal by 2025, through saving species, managing fisheries and facilitating responsible trade, is that the conservation status of the world’s sharks and rays has improved through the prevention of extinctions and the adoption of international policies protecting populations.
A key obstacle to the protection of shark and ray species, and the implementation of sustainable trade, is the current lack of a universal traceability mechanism.
The SharkTrack project is working to develop an integrated traceability system whereby shark and shark products are tagged at the point of capture on the vessel. This will enable legitimate traders to demonstrate that shark and ray products are from legal sources, help regulators identify those which have been illegally caught or traded, and ultimately contribute to the protection of sharks from over-exploitation and unsustainable trade.
In 2017, TRAFFIC, WWF and Hewlett Packard enterprises launched an online tool to help global Customs and enforcement agencies better detect illegal trade in fish.
Illegal and unsustainable fishing is causing many fish populations to crash, threatening not just the biodiversity of our oceans, but also the livelihoods of those who depend on them. Detect IT: Fish was developed to collect trade information for analysis by Customs agencies, law enforcement, government departments and NGOs, helping reveal dangerous trends and illegal trade.
At the 2013 Conference of the Parties to CITES (CITES CoP15), TRAFFIC supported ultimately successful proposals to list seven shark and two manta ray species within the Appendices of the Convention.
These measures that came into force in September 2014 and have since helped progress in managing sustainable trade in threatened populations. At CoP18 TRAFFIC also supported the listing of Shortfin and Longfin Mako Sharks in Appendix II, which also was accepted by Parties.
Traceability in shark and ray trade, particularly in CITES Appendix II-listed species is fundamental to the effective conservation of protected species.
This document, produced for the 17th CITES Conference of the Parties outlines the mechanisms and our recommendations for sustainable, traceable trade in listed species.
The African and European Union Trade in Wildlife Information eXchange's are online tools developed to facilitate information exchange and international co-operation between law enforcement agencies.
The goal of the GSRI is that by 2025, the conservation status of the world’s sharks and rays has improved–declines have been halted, extinctions have been prevented, and commitments to their conservation have increased globally.
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