Monday, February 25, 2013

Shark Extinction is Not an Option

Scuba divers demand international trade protections for world’s most vulnerable sharks and rays. In a matter of days, officials from countries around the world will have a historic opportunity to protect a record number of sharks and rays – including oceanic whitetip sharks, hammerheads and manta rays – from the unsustainable international trade that threatens their survival.

During the 16th meeting of Conference of the Parties to CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora), held in Bangkok, Thailand, from 3 – 14 March, delegates will consider 70 proposals affecting more than 300 species, including the world’s most vulnerable sharks and manta rays. Project AWARE Foundation is calling for a surge of support from scuba divers and shark advocates worldwide.

Project AWARE has rallied support for sharks with nearly 150,000 scuba divers globally to date. “Scuba divers have been a powerful voice when it comes to making strong, persuasive arguments for change. Divers represent a unique and significant economic group that demonstrates the value of healthy, thriving shark and ray populations,” said Ania Budziak, Project AWARE’s Associate Director of Science and Policy. “It’s the healthy shark and ray populations that support tourism, which in some coastal communities, territories and states around the world, underpins entire economies. So CITES action is key, not only to keeping shark populations healthy, but also to long-term economic benefits that are not yet fully realized.”

International trade in wild plants and animals is worth billions of dollars a year and in too many cases, threatens species survival. In the case of sharks – sought after for fins, meat, oil, teeth and cartilage – regulation is sorely lacking for almost all trade and is a key driver in species decline.

Before the next month’s meeting, shark advocates can help amplify the call to protect these exceptionally vulnerable species. Project AWARE Foundation is urging the dive community to take the following steps:

1. Sign the petition urging CITES member countries to give sharks and rays much needed protections.
2. Send a letter direct to CITES authorities urging them to vote “Yes” for sharks and rays.
3. Spread the word. Download the “Extinction is NOT an Option” sign, take a picture and post it to our Facebook wall of support.

“Project AWARE staff will be on the ground in Bangkok during the conference. We’ll be working with our partners, meeting with CITES delegates and helping influence the votes this March,” said Budziak. “Scuba divers have stood by sharks on the CITES campaign trail since 2010, we’ve taken every meaningful opportunity available to put sharks and rays front and center on government agendas. We’ll do what it takes to be sure sharks and rays have a voice at these critical meetings.”

Strong off the recent success to secure the European Commission’s vote to close loopholes in the EU shark finning ban and armed with petition signatures from more than 120,000 divers and shark advocates worldwide, Project AWARE and partners will push for the two-thirds majority vote necessary to secure a brighter future for vulnerable sharks and rays this March.

Project AWARE Foundation is a global movement of scuba divers protecting our ocean planet - one dive at a time. Focused on the critical issues of Sharks in Peril and Marine Debris, Project AWARE empowers thousands of divers in more than 180 countries to work together for a clean, healthy and abundant ocean planet. Project AWARE Foundation is a registered non-profit organization.

Deutsche Elasmobranchier-Gesellschaft (DEG), Humane Society International (HSI), Project AWARE Foundation, Shark Advocates International (SAI), the Shark Trust and Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS), with the support of Oceans 5, are working together to secure CITES listings for shark and ray species at the 16th Conference of Parties in March 2013.

Source: Project Aware

Image courtesy of ryn413 via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)