Global trade of Silky shark, three species of Thresher shark, and nine species of Devil ray will be strictly controlled, hopefully, as the Committee of 17th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) today expressed their support to include them in CITES Appendix II.
The decision will be finalized in the Plenary later this week, and as we’ve seen massive support in the committee, it is understandable that, these species are going to be finally lucky.
In Bangladesh’s water in the Bay of Bengal, we have reported presence of at least 4 of the newly listed 14 species; the Silky shark (Carcharhinus falciformis) and Giant Devil Ray (Mobula mobular), Japanese Devil ray (Mobula japanica) and Atlantic Devil ray (Mobula hypostoma).
Once the decision comes into force, trade in the specimen of these species including their Fin, Meat or Gill will not be allowed from any of the 180 countries without prior permission and certification that the harvest was legal and sustainable by the designated national authorities.
This is a great victory for shark conservation.
Now, we have total ten Appendix II listed species in Bangladesh’s water in the Bay of Bengal. So as the designated national authority for CITES, it is time for Bangladesh Forest Department to act. Because CITES listing does not mean that a species is protected, it means the countries now need to take further conservation actions to control export and import, as agreed.
So, as complementary domestic action Bangladesh now needs act on the national level by establishing permit and certification process for shark product export. Beside global trade, we’ve notable domestic market too, which is not covered by CITES. So, regulating domestic trade is also should be a priority. The domestic market can be easily regulated by extending Forest Act’s jurisdiction to ban shark fishing to all the coastal and marine areas. (Currently, it is limited only in Sundarban).
We hope the forest department will be able to do that. Because, in spite of Bangladesh’s unsatisfactory role in conservation, we’ve seen that Forest Department was very active in the CITES COP17 for listing of these shark and ray species. And it brought us success in shark conservation, globally, and for the Bay of Bengal region.
Bangladesh has taken the role of one of the co-sponsors for all three proposals (42nd, 43rd and 4th proposals) to include 9 species of Devil rays, 3 species of Thresher sharks and the Silky shark in Appendix II.
Another Bay of Bengal country- Sri Lanka did a good job too as co-sponsor. Though India was not among the proponents, but supported every proposal. Unfortunately, Myanmar and Thailand were not there. Being on the list of top shark harvesting countries, they should have been among the supporters of these proposals. They all have all three genera of these Elasmobranches in their water.
In spite Bangladesh’s growing export income from shark products in recent years, Forest Department really did a commendable job. CCF Mr. Md. Yunus Ali says, ‘broader Indian Ocean ecosystem and Bay of Bengal region are subject to over-exploitation of sharks and rays.’ So, though there is a lack of stock data on the national level, it was the thought of taking precautionary measures which inspired Bangladesh to be the co-sponsors of these proposals for sharks at CITES COP 17, he said.
However, again, listing of species is not enough; we need real actions in policy and implementation.
In the current meeting, a lot of countries were able to update the conference about real actions taken by them to conserve shark as rays. As the meeting record says, Chile, China, Colombia, Egypt, Germany on behalf of the European Union and its member States, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Japan, Kenya, Maldives, Morocco, Samoa, Senegal, Sri Lanka and Tonga ‘outlined activities they had undertaken regarding National Plans of Action for Sharks, training workshops, research, capacity-building, and implementation.’
We hope in the next Conference of the Parties, Bangladesh will be able to join other countries with a National Plans of Action for Sharks.
Fahmida Khalique Nitu teaches Zoology at National University of Bangladesh and affiliated with Save Our Sea as a Research Associate. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org