As 16th Conference of the Parties of the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES COP16, pronounced sight-eze) comes to a close, I’d like to reflect on something that made this meeting unlike almost any other wildlife conservation and management meeting in history. Yes, history was made as delegates voted to list commercially exploited shark species for the first time, and history was made when manta rays became the first shark or ray species to be listed under CITES the first time they were proposed, and that’s all fantastic news. However, what I believe made CITES COP16 a game-changer for wildlife conservation and management was the large-scale inclusion of online outreach by both attendees and organizers. For the first time ever, interested members of the public from all over the world could follow along (and to some degree, participate) in real time.
Continue reading Was CITES COP16 a game-changer for online outreach at wildlife management meetings?
The 16th Conference of the Parties of CITES (Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species has been truly historic in terms of shark and ray protections. I’ve created a Storify featuring some highlights of the ongoing twitter conversation, organized by proposal. The tweets include links to fact sheets and scientific research about the species up for protections, as well as original content such as summaries of arguments made by delegates for and against CITES protections. Tweets come from experts in attendance at CITES, and those following along from around the world (including me). For those of you who didn’t follow along live, or if you did and want to relive the experience, check it out! Warning- there are a LOT of tweets.
Continue reading Debate and celebration from CITES: A Storify of #CITES4sharks tweets
Right now, delegates from 178 countries are meeting in Bangkok, Thailand to discuss a variety of conservation proposals. At the 16th CITES Conference of the Parties, among many other worthy topics, delegates will be debating a record-number of shark and ray proposals. These include iconic species like hammerhead sharks (3 species) and manta rays (2 species), as well as oceanic whitetip sharks, porbeagle sharks, and three species of freshwater stingray.
In addition to a record-number of shark and ray proposals, this year’s Conference of the Parties also has a record-number of attendees live-tweeting the meeting.Those of you who follow me on twitter know that I’ve been re-tweeting lots of information about CITES and these shark conservation proposals. In case you want to get the information directly from the source, I’ve prepared a guide to following along with the meeting on twitter.
1) Follow #CITES . Though this hashtag isn’t exclusively focused on sharks (and isn’t exclusively in English), there’s a lot of good information being shared.
2) Follow #Cites4Sharks . Also use this hashtag if you’re sharing any relevant links or information.
3) Follow the 13 accounts I’ve highlighted below (and let me know in the comments if you have suggestions for any accounts I should add to the list):
Continue reading A guide to following shark conservation proposals at CITES on twitter
Endangered species seem to be coming up around here more often than usual, mostly due to the potential state-level listing of great white sharks in California. This move has been resisted from some surprising corners, including researchers who are generally pro-shark conservation. The reasons why scientists might want to oppose an Endangered Species listing are laid out by Dr. Chris Lowe in an earlier post on this very blog, so I won’t reiterate all of them here. Surprisingly, I have yet to see any comments accusing Dr. Lowe of being a shill for the drift gillnet fishery.
There seems to a be a real sense among some conservation-minded folks that Endangered Species listing is something of a “holy grail” for species protection and recovery, and some petitioners would have you believe that anything less is unacceptable (and probably the result of corruption). However, the Endangered Species Act has a very specific process by which species receive protection, and a defined set of limitations. A lot of well-meaning people seem to have limited knowledge of this process and limitations. To do my little part to help fix this, this post will be a short primer on the Act and will show how a marine species has recently navigated the entire process for listing. With any luck, maybe this will result in one or two fewer misguided online petitions.
Continue reading The Endangered Species Act and Marine Animals: To List or Not To List?
A newly-released list of proposed amendments for the upcoming CITES Conference of the Parties includes proposals to protect ten species of sharks and rays, a record-breaking number. These include three species of hammerheads, oceanic whitetip sharks, porbeagle sharks, three species of freshwater stingray, and both species of manta ray.
In total, 37 countries are involved in the proposed amendments. As expected, the United States is a co-sponsor of the oceanic whitetip measure. Additional noteworthy participants include major shark fishing nations like Mexico (co-sponsoring the hammerhead proposal) and the European Union (co-sponsoring the hammerhead and leading the porbeagle proposals).
“International trade is a major driver for shark fisheries around the world, and yet controls on this exploitation are woefully insufficient,” said Sonja Fordham, President of Shark Advocates International. “We are grateful for continued U.S. leadership in addressing international shark trade, and welcome this unprecedented number of proposals to safeguard these vulnerable species under CITES.”
Threats to these animals are diverse and include directed catch for both fins and meat, bycatch, alternative medicine (gill rakers), and even the aquarium trade. Each of the freshwater stingray species are considered Data Deficient by the IUCN Red List, scalloped and great hammerheads are considered Endangered, and the other species are Vulnerable.
Species of elasmobranchs currently protected by CITES include the great white shark, whale shark, basking shark, and all species of sawfish. Porbeagles, oceanic whitetips, and hammerheads were proposed for CITES protections in 2010, but the measures failed.
Each of these proposals aims to list a species under CITES Appendix II, which requires that any international export of these species be certified as sustainable (including the issuing of permits). The discussion will take place next March at the 16th CITES Conference of the Parties in Bangkok, Thailand.
WhySharksMatter found Nemo at Disney's Living Seas Aquarium
Like most marine biology geeks, I’m a huge fan of Disney/Pixar’s “Finding Nemo”. In addition to a heartwarming story of a father trying to bring his son home to their aneme…anemeneme… amenememe… anemone, the film showcases an enormous variety of beautiful real-life coral reef species. According to research published today in Conservation Letters, however, we may soon only be able to see some of these animals in the movies. The paper, titled “Extinction Risk and Bottlenecks in the Conservation of Charismatic Marine Species”, concluded that many of the stars of Finding Nemo are in deep trouble.
Continue reading Saving Nemo: 1 out of 6 species that appear in Finding Nemo are threatened with extinction
At the 2nd International Marine Conservation Congress, Dr. Nick Dulvy and the IUCN Shark Specialist Group organized a special symposium called “Securing the Conservation of Sharks and Rays”. This symposium featured leading scientists, international policy experts, the founder of a creative non-profit, a National Geographic conservation photographer… and me. It was, without a doubt, the greatest professional honor of my (admittedly brief so far) career.
Continue reading Securing the Conservation of Sharks and Rays
It’s the end of a long a productive field season abroad. You’ve collected, processed, and packed thousands of precious samples. These samples are your life-blood. They will be the foundation of not only your thesis, but dozens of theses to follow, the cornerstone of a long and prosperous scientific career. There’s only one barrier left between you and scientific glory – you have to get those samples home.
Traveling with samples, especially internationally, carries with it a bit of diplomacy, some tact, confidence, and a huge amount of (often undue) stress. Even if you’re completely on the level, there are horror stories about overzealous security guards, irate customs agents, suspicious packages, and the risk of being detained, having a visa revoked, being stuck on the next plane out of the country, or, worst of all, losing your samples. As you pack up your gear and prepare to board your flight home, take a step back and remember the immortal words of Douglas Adams – don’t panic.
Continue reading Traveling with Samples: the impossible journey
Lots has been written about the recent failure of CITES to protect marine species. Most of it focuses on blaming countries like Japan and China for putting commerce ahead of science and conservation. However, SCUBA operator and blogger Mike Da Shark has a different perspective- he criticizes the NGOs who advocated for conservation.
Continue reading A different perspective on the CITES disaster