Unprecedented new conservation measures agreed for key marine species
This morning in Quito, Ecuador, in the closing session of the Convention for Migratory Species (CMS) a number of new initiatives for sharks, rays and marine mammals were agreed. Foremost amongst these was the agreement to protect 21 shark and ray species with their addition to the CMS appendices. Member countries agreed to grant strict protection to the reef manta ray, nine species of devil rays, and five sawfish species, and also committed to work internationally to conserve all three species of thresher sharks, two hammerhead species, and the silky shark.
Amongst these, the devil rays stand out as no other international body has previously provided these very vulnerable and intensively targeted rays with conservation measures. All the rays and sharks are threatened primarily by over harvesting and in the case of the devil and reef manta rays, this is not primarily for food but for their gill rakers which are used in Asian Medicine. The large dorsal fins of the shark species that have been listed are prized as an ingredient in a luxury soup in Asia.
“Today’s commitment at CMS by countries to provide greater protection for shark and ray species is an unprecedented step forwards in the conservation of sharks and rays worldwide,” said HSI’s Alexia Wellbelove. “These decisions will ensure that strict protection is provided for those species most at need, as well as encouraging much needed international cooperation for all these species.”
“Countries now need to focus on ensuring that national protection for these shark and rays are increased and their conservation promoted wherever possible” continued Ms Wellbelove. “We therefore call on Australia to ensure that all these listings are implemented in full according to Australian environment law.”
An unprecedented call to end the live capture of whales and dolphins for commercial purposes was also agreed at the meeting. This cruel and unnecessary practice has been the subject of much controversy and tremendous public concern all around the world. In many cases it offers a conservation threat to the typically unmonitored populations of dolphins and orcas from which the animals are being removed and it can compromise the welfare of the individuals left behind, as family groups are split up.
“This is the first time that an international body has made a firm statement on the live capture of whales and dolphins for commercial purposes and we hope it will reverberate around the world and reach those countries that catch these poor animals as well as those that receive them,” concluded Ms Wellbelove.
CMS also agreed an innovative program of work to incorporate social biology and the concept of culture into the conservation of animals based on new science. This is the first time that an international convention has initiated such work and it means that conservation initiatives have to move beyond the simple focus on whole species to include social units and consideration of behaviour.
Other species provided with increased protection at the meeting include the polar bear, which HSI hopes will help to bring more action to address the species’ plight from countries outside its range.
A resolution on marine debris was also strongly supported during the debate, but the resulting resolution is disappointing and lacks a strong work stream for the convention to go forward.