© FAO/23855/D. Minkoh

Several shark species are vulnerable to target and bycatch fisheries (commercial and recreational), some of which supply high-value products in the form of fins, jaws and teeth for international trade. Most shark species are utilised for their meat and fins, sometimes also cartilage, liver oil and hides. Concerns about the conservation status of shark species affected by international trade, and the slow progress in the implementation of the IPOA-Sharks, have led to an increasing level of attention from CITES on the conservation of shark species.

The shark species currently listed on CITES Appendices are the white shark Carcharodon carcharias (Appendix II), whale shark Rhincodon typus(Appendix II), basking shark Cetorhinus maximus, (Appendix II), sawfishes (family Pristidae, Appendix I), oceanic whitetip shark Carcharhinus longimanus (Appendix II), scalloped hammerhead shark, Sphyrna lewini (Appendix II) , great hammerhead shark, Sphyrna mokarran (Appendix II), smooth hammerhead shark, Sphyrna zygaena (Appendix II), porbeagle shark, Lamna nasus (Appendix II) and manta rays Manta spp (Appendix II).

Under the framework of the IPOA-Sharks, various activities have been implemented by FAO to develop the capacity of member countries in shark conservation and management, including technical workshops, direct assistance to countries, the production of identification guides and other technical documents.

At its 16th meeting (Bangkok, March 2013), the Conference of the Parties to CITES decided to include three species of hammerhead sharks, porbeagle shark, oceanic whitetip shark and all manta rays in Appendix II. This was the first time that shark species of great commercial value, and traded in high volumes, have been included in Appendix II, thereby requiring verification of the sustainability and legality of the trade. To support the implementation of these listings FAO has been collaborating with CITES in the implementation of an EU-funded project on “Strengthening capacity in developing countries for sustainable wildlife management and enhanced implementation of CITES wildlife trade regulations, with particular focus on commercially-exploited aquatic species”. As part of this collaborative work, regional CITES/FAO consultative workshops were held in Africa (Casablanca, Morocco, 11-13 February 2014) and Asia (Xiamen, China PR, 13-15 May 2014) to assess regional capacities and develop roadmaps for the implementation of CITES requirements in relation to shark and manta rays.

In collaboration with the University of Vigo, FAO, with support from CITES, is developing the software iSharkFin, an expert system based on machine-learning techniques for the identification of shark fins by their shape. The tool, aimed at port inspectors, custom agents, fish traders and others, will be complemented by a more traditional, document format Shark Fin Guide, containing identification keys, species fact sheets, methodology for the identification and training courses. Both products (iSharkfin and Shark Fin Guide) are expected to be launched at the end of 2014.

See also: CITES Sharks and manta rays web portal.

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