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'Indiana Jones' Shark Wins International Protection from CITES Meeting

Oct 05, 2016 04:29 AM EDT

Thresher sharks, devil rays and silky sharks are voted to elevate their protection status to Appendix II of Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). These shark species are subjected to demanding shark fin trade that resulted to decline of their populations. By Appendix II, trade of these shark species are legal unless their populations are already unsustainable.

Thresher sharks are known for their big eyes and long whip-like tail, which they use to hunt and stun their prey. Among all pelagic sharks, thresher sharks are at highest risk of extinction and are marked as vulnerable by the IUCN.

"These are incredible animals, with their long whip like tails they're referred to as the Indiana Jones of the sea," said Luke Warwick with Pew Charitable Trusts. Divers also wanted to see thresher sharks however the species are now going to extinction due to unsustainable trade.

Devil rays are hunted because of their dried gill plates, as it is popular in China as a soup that helps treat fever and nursing mothers. While devil rays can jump out of the water and reach up to two meters high, they are also deep sea divers as well. Known also as mobula riays, they often are found in a group, making it easier for hunters to target them.

Meanwhile, silky sharks' populations decreased with an estimated 70 percent in every area found in the Pacific and Atlantic oceans. These shark species are usually found in tropical and warmer waters. Known for their skin's smooth texture, silky sharks have strong sense of hearing, which helps them locate their prey -- tunas. However, chasing tunas are sometimes the cause of their demise, as they too, get caught by fishing nets. According to marine conservation group Fundación MarViva, the silks are caught in Central America and were exported to Asian market for shark fin soup. Its rapid decline also a result of their low reproduction rates, Tico Times reported.

"Assuming these decisions stand, this is a big win for all these species of sharks and rays as governments around the world will now have to act to reduce the overfishing that threatens them," said Dr Cornish, reported in BBC News. "Countries have now bought into the idea of listing sharks and rays, they are increasingly convinced that Appendix II listing leads to better data, improved management and a more sustainable trade -- that's a real breakthrough."

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