CITES adds more shark and ray species to Appendix IIIn October 2016, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) updated its listing to include devil rays, thresher sharks and silky sharks under Appendix II. The listing of these species in Appendix II allows them to be commercially traded across international borders, but also places the species under strict regulations which will ensure, to a certain extent, the sustainability.
Hong Kong accounts for about 50 per cent of the annual global shark fin trade, with the fins of both thresher and silky sharks being comparatively not difficult to find on the market. In addition, the devil ray’s gill raker (an organ used to filter food) is frequently found in Chinese medicine shops. Since devil rays, thresher sharks and silky sharks are now listed as CITES Appendix II species, a CITES trade permit will be henceforth be needed to trade this species internationally.
If a trader or exporter has not applied for such a permit, and mixes up products from CITES-listed species with non-CITES-listed species, they may well be violating a host of domestic or international laws and regulations. One example of the consequences of such actions occurred in July 2016, when 880 kg of suspected hammerhead shark fin was found in a shipment sent from Panama to Hong Kong without the relevant permit. The shark fin cargo was seized by the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department.
Given that more and more shark and ray species are now being listed in international conventions or agreements, it is becoming increasingly difficult to identify the differences between legal and illegal shark fin products. This means that all stakeholders in the trade, including traders, carriers and government officials, need to be more vigilant than ever when trading shark fins or gill rakers. Should errors in trading occur, these stakeholders may expose themselves to a high level of legal and reputational risk by accidentally sourcing, shipping and/or trading illegally sourced shark fin products.