CITES restrictions start today on international trade of sharks, manta rays
CITES restrictions start today on international trade of hammerhead sharks, oceanic whitetip sharks and manta rays.
During the last Conference of the Parties (CoP) of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Migratory Species (CMS) held in June of 2013, five species of sharks and all manta rays were listed under Appendix II. The listing does not ban the international trade of a particular species, but is rather intended to control it and avoid uses that result incompatible with its survival. Parties were given 18 months to resolve technical and administrative issues related to implementation, the deadline being reached today (September 14, 2014).
Several of the species listed under Appendix II are relevant for Costa Rica. The three listed species of hammerhead sharks (scalloped hammerhead, smooth hammerhead, great hammerhead) were proposed by Costa Rica, Honduras and Brazil. The oceanic white tip shark, a highly valued species in the international shark fin trade and once an abundant catch in Costa Rican fisheries, has now become a rare catch, and its commerce has been banned by the Inter American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC). Manta rays are common in Costa Rica waters, and even though it is not acknowledged as a targeted catch, the truth is that an export market exists for ray meat, the composition by species of which is unknown.
These are the regulations to export hammerhead shark, oceanic whitetip shark and manta ray products as of today:
According to the Convention, Parties shall allow trade in specimens of species included in Appendix II only if a CITES Export Permit has been issued by the CITES Administrative Authority of the exporting State. Furthermore, the Administrative Authority can only issue a CITES Export Permit under a Legal Acquisition Finding (LAF) that confirms the specimens were acquired respecting national legislation, as well as a Non Detrimental Finding (NDF) issued by the CITES Scientific Authority, which guarantees that exports of products from listed species have not harmed wild populations or ecosystems, nor will such export be detrimental to the survival of the species.
Furthermore, special provisions exist when domestic and foreign vessels introduce fishery products from international waters, a common practice known as Introduction From the Sea (IFS). In this case, if a domestic vessel desires to land CITES Appendix II species products caught in international waters in its Flag State, the Administrative Authority must issue a IFS Certificate, and require a NDF before allowing the landing of such products. If on the other hand, a foreign flagged vessel desires to land CITES Appendix II species in a port that is not its Flag State, the transaction must be treated as an export, and the Administrative Authority of the Flag State must issue an Export Permit and require a NDF and a LAF.
“The international commerce of hammehead shark and oceanic white tip shark fins constitutes the main threat for the survival of these species,” pointed out Randall Arauz, of the Costa Rican organization PRETOMA. “We hope that as of today, September 14, not a single fin of these species is allowed to be exported unless it has strictly abided to the requirements imposed by the law”, said firmly Arauz.
According to Andrew Bystrom of PRETOMA, these Appendix II listings set new challenges and opportunities for Parties in ensuring that trade is legal, sustainable, and traceable. “We expect Costa Rica to continue leading this and other international processes to protect endangered marine species, the endangered sharks of the Eastern Tropical Pacific really need it”.
- NDFs may come with conditions, such as improving management through restrictions on catch or export quantities, or the requirement of monitoring and control systems to ensure compliance with such limits. Another condition may be the need for traceability from catch to consumer.
- Hammerhead sharks are of great interest to Costa Rica, not only due to the decline of its population during the last decades as effect of overfishing, but also to it great tourism value. In Cocos Island, a single hammerhead shark may generate US$82,000 in a season, and US$1.6 million if allowed to live 35 years, considerably more than its worth if caught as a fishery product (US$200).
- The basking shark (Cetorhinus maximus) and the whale shark (Rhincodon typus) were the first shark species to be listed under Appendix II, during the XII CoP of CITES in February2003.
For more information:
Randall Arauz, 2241 5227 / 8344 3711
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