At the 2019 Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES CoP18) in Geneva, Switzerland, Sea Save’s advocacy helped secure protection from unsustainable trade for four additional marine species.
At CoP18, Sea Save’s scientists and volunteers faced a challenging environment. Approximately 1700 delegates, representing 169 member countries, each with its own economic and conservation concerns, were asked to consider more proposals than ever before.
Sea Save’s determined efforts to educate delegates about the risks and benefits around each species ensured that four new marine animals were added to the appendices: Mako sharks, Wedgefish, Guitarfish, and Sea Cucumbers.
The survival of the mako shark is threatened by fishing, both targeted — for its valuable meat and fins — and unintentional, as a bycatch of other fisheries. In North America, mako are a popular target for sport fishing. Since the mako shark is a highly migratory fish and an important predator species, declines in its population are likely to have negative impacts across many marine ecosystems. Adding this species to Appendix II will help protect it from unsustainable trade in the future.
Sea cucumbers play an important role in their ecosystems, helping to improve water quality by digging up sediment, feeding on waste, and making nutrients available to corals and algae. They are also an important food source for many other sea animals. Unfortunately, sea cucumbers are also highly valuable in international trade and easy to capture, which puts them at risk for overexploitation.
The fins of the wedgefish, along with guitarfish, are among the most valuable fins in global trade. High demand led to unchecked exploitation for many decades. During that time, risks to the wedgefish were mostly ignored, and countries made few efforts at management or conservation. The result was severe depletion of populations and, in some areas, extinction.
Guitarfish are highly valuable in international trade, both for their fins and quality meat. Growing demand in Asian markets and limited regulation has put heavy pressure on these species, and populations are in rapid decline. Protection from unsustainable international trade is needed to help guitarfish populations survive and recover.