Into the Deep: Implementing CITES Measures for Commercially-Valuable Sharks and Manta Rays

Posted on: August 1st, 2013 by Hannah Darrin
A report by Victoria Mundy-Taylor and Vicki Crook,
Written by Hannah Darrin

CITES_panel_addressing_hhb3686f4f436bThis is a review of the TRAFFIC report on the implementation of CITES in relation to Mozambique and the Southern African Area. Into the deep: Implementing CITES measures for commercially-valuable sharks and manta rays  was commissioned by the European Union after seven species of marine elasmobranchs were listed on Appendix II of  the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), decreed in an international Conference of Parties  held in Bangkok, Thailand, March, 2013.

They species listed includes the Oceanic Whitetip shark, Porbeagle shark (not found in Mozambican waters), three species of hammerhead shark (Scalloped, Great and Smooth) and both species of manta ray, all of them threatened by extinction and over-exploitation.

“There was great elation when these sharks and manta rays were listed in CITES this March, but although it was a significant moment for the conservation world, now comes the task of making these listings work in practice as time is running out for some of these species,” said Glenn Sant, TRAFFIC’s Marine Programme Leader.

The enforcement of the listing has been delayed until September 2014 so that certain states have the opportunity to implement, enforce and facilitate the new trade laws. Mozambique has the written law ready to cover this new CITES implementation. Note that the catch of these animals is still legal, it is merely the trade and export that is no longer allowed.

Great White Shark Meat

Great White Shark Meat

Manta Caught in Gill Nets in Guinjata Photo: Adam Baugh

Manta Caught in Gill Nets in Guinjata
Photo: Adam Baugh

Investigation by TRAFFIC into the catch and trade of shark and ray products in Southern Africa shows that no countries make the top 20 list for the catch these species. However, South Africa is the 20th largest exporter, primarily of shark meat to the rest of the world. In 2012, 9,000 tonnes of shark meat was exported from South Africa, mostly to Hong Kong.

The primary reason that these species are caught in Mozambique is due to bycatch however there have been some targeted fisheries. The report includes that Oceanic White Tips are frequently taken in Mozambican and Tanzanian waters as  by longliners fishing for tunas and billfish.

Hammerhead incidental catch  Photo: Libby Bowles

Hammerhead incidental catch
Photo: Libby Bowles

Hammerheads suffer the same fate, except that because of their nature they do spend much time around reef systems and coastal habitats, this subjects them to the notorious gill nets that are set near to shore and well within the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), which extends 200 kms out. In this incidental catch they are often taken in the juvenile stage. (See the EOTH newsletter featuring the specific catches seen in the month of February, 2013 in Guinjata’s gill nets alone).

Mantas are also often caught at bycatch in gill nets. With the sources from EOTH and the expert opinions from Marine Megafauna researchers it is predicted that this fishery takes about 35 individual mantas each year. In Novermber 2012 alone 4 mantas were taken in Zavora.

There are further laws that afford these species protection, and stay tuned as Eyes on the Horizon prepares a report to include the threatened species that are afforded protection in Mozambique.

“Trade regulation is fundamental to the management of these shark and manta ray species in our oceans, without it their numbers will continue to decline to perilous levels.”said TRAFFIC’s Research Officer, Victoria Mundy-Taylor, co-author of the new study.

TRAFFIC reports some challenges that developing countries such as Mozambique must overcome in order to achieve success with the new CITES laws. Eyes on the Horizon can be a helpful platform to overcome the challenges surrounding a lack of enforcement and the lack of technical and institutional assistance.

white shark fin

The fins alone can identify the species

In order to prepare Mozambique for the upcoming changes, the Wildlife Conservation Society held a workshop in Maputo on the 6th and 7th of December 2012. At this workshop 51 officials from the Southern Africa fisheries departments were given technical advice and other resources to assist authorities in halting the illegal trade of these sharks and rays. This included a fin guide to identifying hammerheads and oceanic white tips from other species.

Further challenges in creating sustainable limits for catching rays and sharks is the lack of overall data for stock assessments particularly at the artisanal sector when dealing with migratory species. There is little information on the overall abundance, the seasonal and

Report what you see

Report what you see

Report and identify what you see

Help us by photographing what you see, this allows us to collate evidence.

spatial distribution of threatened species,  catch information,  biology and  national and international trade of these species. This is where people like you can make a difference, by reporting not only suspected illegal activity but also interesting information about the species that we know very little about.

It is thought that only 5% of all catch is reported in Mozambique within the artisanal sector,  and this is seen only within the community cooperatives (CCPs). This leaves lots of room for improvement in reporting intentional and incidental catches of sharks and rays by our “Eyes on the Horizon”.

“CITES listings do not take away the need for comprehensive fisheries management, they represent one critical part of that management through aiming to control trade and prevent international trade in products of these species being sourced from unsustainable or illegal fisheries.” said Sant. EOTH helps Mozambique conduct management on areas that they are not able to patrol every fishery with the limited enforcement they are given.

The document by TRAFFIC “ shows that many countries and stakeholders are working together and planning joint activities to ensure proper implementation of the CITES shark and ray listings.” This is why it is important within Mozambique for stakeholders to come together and similarly ensure the laws are upheld. Please keep your Eyes on the Horizon, and if you sea something, say something.


If you sea something, say something!

If you sea something, say something!


The Top 20 shark catchers in descending order are Indonesia, India, Spain, Taiwan, Argentina, Mexico, United States of America, Malaysia, Pakistan, Brazil, Japan, France, New Zealand, Thailand, Portugal, Nigeria, Islamic Republic of Iran, Sri Lanka, Republic of Korea and Yemen, who between them account for nearly 80 percent of the total shark catch reported globally, with Indonesia and India alone responsible for over 20% of global catches between 2002 and 2011.  Three EU Member States – Spain, France and Portugal – are among the top 20 shark catchers, responsible for 12% of global catches and, collectively, the 28 EU Member States are the largest shark catching entity of all.

Read the full article here at: TRAFFIC International

Mundy-Taylor V. and Crook V. (2013). Into the deep: Implementing CITES measures for commercially-valuable sharks and manta rays. Report prepared for the European Commission.