Published 9th March 2022
Conscious that international trade in CITES-listed sharks and rays may be going undetected, TRAFFIC has submitted a report to CITES Standing Committee recommending improvements to information sharing processes needed to assess non-compliance with CITES requirements which undermine global efforts to reverse species declines.
Missing Sharks: A Country Review Of Catch, Trade And Management Recommendations For Cites-Listed Shark Species
Glenn Sant, Nicola Okes
As one-third of the world's shark and ray species are now threatened with extinction, increased awareness over the detrimental impact of commercial fishing for their meat and fins has led to improved regulations worldwide. However, in recent years, concerns have been raised by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)'s technical committee that suggest the trade data reported by Parties does not match those of expert expectations and that international trade in CITES-listed sharks may be going undetected and unreported.
In response to these concerns, TRAFFIC, with the support of the Shark Conservation Fund, conducted a qualitative review of catch, trade, and management measures for all countries known to be catching CITES-listed sharks to understand the disconnect between known catches of CITES-listed shark species and reported international trade.
The report, primarily based on publicly available information, highlights areas where more information is needed to assess potential non-compliance or lack of infrastructure to ensure appropriate implementation of CITES requirements.
Using examples of various countries’ catch and trade dynamics to shed light on processes that may be leading to observable mismatches, the authors draw attention to several concerns relating to insufficient reporting.
Acknowledging and understanding the challenges faced by numerous countries in implementing the essential processes for monitoring and collating data on the catch and trade of CITES-listed sharks are critical.”
Dr Nicola Okes, a Project Manager at TRAFFIC and co-author of the report
Other issues highlighted include ambiguity around compliance with Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMO) retention bans and the general scarcity of Introduction From the Sea-related records available in the CITES database – a provision of CITES relating to animals caught on the high seas, outside of a country’s national jurisdiction. The authors stressed the importance of transparent data sharing and improved clarity around how and what data are reported globally.
“Improved standardisation of data repositories, coupled with increased transparency and open discussions on the challenges faced in implementing these processes, will greatly assist global monitoring efforts,” said Glenn Sant, TRAFFIC’s Senior Advisor – Fisheries trade and co-author of the report.
Increasing the transparency of catch data from all shark-catching countries is vital, especially from those fishing on the high seas. It highlights the critical importance of emerging traceability tools such as SharkTrace for use onboard fishing vessels, processing plants, and transport to ensure transparency throughout the supply chain.”.
Glenn Sant, TRAFFIC’s Senior Advisor – Fisheries trade and co-author of the reportTRAFFIC will raise these issues and lessons learnt during the 74th Meeting of the CITES Standing Committee (SC74), hoping that recommendations stemming from the report’s findings can be seriously considered for proposal at the 19th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (CoP19).
Amongst these recommendations, TRAFFIC suggests that CITES adopt Decisions requiring Parties involved in the catch and trade of CITES-listed species to provide more detailed information; in particular to articulate current fishing activities as well as the existing monitoring and controls in place. Adopting Decisions relating to the information on catch and discards of sharks by non-shark directed fishing operations would provide more accurate estimates of overall shark mortality.
Central to these recommendations is the focus on improved processes to ensure the standardised collection, clarity, and interpretation of shark and ray catch and trade records. These are the essential foundations from which further conservation measures can be implemented and evaluated.
51 out of 74 countries
(identified with reported catches) had no relevant records in the CITES trade database between 2001 - 2019
should require Parties involved in the catch and trade of CITES-listed species to provide more detailed information
are vital to ensure the standardised collection, clarity, and interpretation of shark and ray catch and trade records.
for more information:
Abbie Pearce TRAFFIC Media Support Manager