Sharks Ahead: Realizing the Potential of the Convention on Migratory Species to Conserve Elasmobranchs

Lawson JM, Fordham SV (2018) Sharks Ahead: Realizing the Potential of the Convention on Migratory Species to Conserve Elasmobranchs. Shark Advocates International, The Ocean Foundation, Washington, DC, USA

The Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) has great potential to improve the outlook for many threatened sharks and rays. We hypothesized, based on cursory evaluation and direct experience, that the listing of species under this treaty is outpacing implementation of associated conservation commitments.

With the goal of enhancing the CMS contribution to shark and ray conservation, we examined and assessed CMS Parties’ performance with respect to obligations and commitments for listed species. Based on these analyses, we aim to highlight opportunities for meaningful conservation action and assist with future progress. Our main objectives are to: • catalyze improved compliance with CMS Parties’ binding obligations to strictly protect shark and ray species listed on Appendix I, and • encourage national, regional, and global collaboration to protect and conserve species listed on CMS Appendix I and II.

We focused on the elasmobranchs listed prior to 2017, with special attention to the most endangered species (sawfishes) and an exceptionally migratory, commercially valuable, and under-protected species listed a decade ago (the shortfin mako). Because overfishing is the primary threat to elasmobranchs, we evaluate measures based on whether they include concrete limits on fishing, especially catch. To the CMS Secretariat, relevant government officials, and fellow conservationists, we offer specific recommendations for improvement at national and international levels. We hope this document will also serve as a useful reference and tool for additional analyses and strategic conservation planning.