For Immediate Release

Joanna McWilliams
Communications Director
Turtle Island Restoration Network
Cell: (415) 488-7711

Sharks Win Protections at International Wildlife Treaty Meeting

Silky sharks, thresher sharks and rays listed in CITES Appendix II

Johannesburg, South Africa (October 3, 2016) – Today Turtle Island Restoration Network, a leading ocean and marine conservation organization, helped win protections for sharks and rays at a major international wildlife meeting taking place in South Africa.

“This is a last chance opportunity to begin to control trade in these shark species.  Without it, future generations will legitimately blame our generation for inaction,” said Todd Steiner, executive director of Turtle Island ( “Sharks and rays migrate beyond national boundaries and into international waters and their survival depends on the type of international cooperation we’ve achieved here.”

The meeting known as the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is an international agreement between governments. Its aim is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.

Turtle Island has long been an advocate for global protections for silky sharks, thresher sharks and mobula rays. Prior to the meeting, the organization and its partners delivered more than 15,000 petitions to the Presidents of Costa Rica,  El Salvador, Guatemala, and Nicaragua,  calling on these Central American Leaders to support greater protections for silky sharks by listing them under Appendix II of CITES. More than 3,000 emails were also set in a day to the Prime Minister of Canada.

“Silky sharks in Central America are mainly caught to supply the shark fin soup industry in Asia,” explained Randall Arauz, international policy director of Turtle Island.  “Protecting these silky sharks under CITES is the first step to halting the silky shark’s tragic decline, and initiating the recovery of the species.”

Listing a species provides it with special protections globally. In the case of the silky shark, fishing nations would need to provide scientific evidence on the sustainability of their extraction for export. If that information is not provided, then the international trade of the species is barred. Turtle Island and conservationists also supported proposals to list thresher sharks and mobula rays under Appendix II of CITES.

About Silky Sharks

Silky sharks are the most common shark caught incidentally by tuna longline and purse seine fisheries throughout their range, particularly those using fish aggregating devices. Silky sharks are the most-caught species of shark in longline fisheries in the Eastern Pacific, constituting up to 90 percent of the total catch of sharks. The species ranks 2nd or 3rd in Hong Kong shark fin markets.  Silky sharks are classified as ‘near threatened’ by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).  In the Central and Eastern Tropical Pacific silky sharks are even more endangered and classified as ’vulnerable.’ Whilst the capture and retention of this species is banned in the Central and Western Pacific by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) and in the Atlantic by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), its catches in the Eastern Pacific remain unencumbered.

Today sharks and rays were granted greater global protections under CITES. The vote counts are below.

Silky sharks: 111 members voted in favor of listing the species, 30 voted against, and 5 abstained.

Thresher sharks: 108 members voted in favor of listing the species. 29 voted against, and 5 abstained.

Rays: 110 members voted in favor of listing the species,  0 voted against, and 3 abstained.


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