Conservationists believe that a key wildlife summit could be the “last chance saloon” for saving sharks and rays driven to extinction by the shark fin trade. It is estimated that around 100 million sharks are killed each year for their fins and meat.
The weekend discussion among countries will cover extending protection to more species of sharks and rays like mako sharks and the little-known “rhino rays” under wildlife trade rules.
The characteristic elongated snouts of Wedgefish and guitarfish that collectively label them as “rhino rays”, are now making them the most endangered marine fish group, as per a recent scientific assessment.
Luke Warwick of the Wildlife Conservation Society told BBC News, “With this new science just come out, fresh in everyone’s minds a month ago, on these wedgefish and guitarfish, it’s clearly last chance saloon for them”.
He said that the fins of wedgefish and guitarfish are worth as much as a thousand dollars per kilogram, making them one of the most highly valued species in the shark fin trade. Several shark species were listed for the first time at the Cites meeting in Thailand six years ago.
There are proposals to include 18 more sharks and rays to Appendix II of The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites).
If passed during this second week of discussions in Geneva, this would mean that countries would have to ensure that all continued trade was sustainable and legal. The latest proposals also include listings for the longfin and shortfin, two species of mako sharks that are sold for their high value “steak” meat.
Luke Warwick said, “They should number in the tens of millions in all of the world’s oceans and we’re taking them out by the hundreds of thousands or millions a year, so it’s even looking bad for these highly migratory much more abundant sharks”.
Till now, the Cites agenda has been dominated by discussions on the protection of large charismatic animals like the elephant and the giraffe with a vote to protect and regulate international trade in giraffes, an endangered species.