Approximately 400 species of sharks are found in the world. Sharks were first included in Appendix II of CITES in February 2003, after the Conference of the Parties to CITES decided at its 12th meeting to include the basking shark (Cetorhinus maximus) and whale shark (Rhincodon typus) in Appendix II, in accordance with Resolution Conf. 9.24 on Criteria for amendment of Appendices I and II. Species included in Appendix II are not necessarily threatened with extinction, but trade in them is controlled to avoid utilization incompatible with their survival. As of June 2013, eight species of sharks and all manta rays (which belong to the same subclass Elasmobranchii) are included in Appendix II, and none in Appendix I. However, all species of sawfishes (which also belong to the subclass Elasmobranchii) are in Appendix I.
This section focuses on the sharks and manta rays listed by CITES at the 16th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (CoP16, Bangkok) in March 2013 and on the ongoing efforts to implement these decisions.
At CoP16, CITES Parties decided to include five shark species and all manta rays in Appendix II. With the other three shark species previously included in Appendix II, eight species of sharks are now included in Appendix II. Nevertheless, the listing of manta rays and of five species of sharks will not enter into effect until 14 September 2014, to give Parties 18 months to resolve technical and administrative issues related to implementation.
While commercially-exploited aquatic species have been included in CITES Appendices over the years, these recent listings set new challenges and opportunities for Parties in ensuring that trade is legal, sustainable, and traceable, even for highly traded fisheries commodities.