The Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species voted last week in favor of placing several new species on their protected list. Of critical importance to us in the Costa Rican diving community is that the Manta Rays are now protected on this list. Along with the Mantas, the oceanic whitetip shark, porbeagle, as well as three species of hammerheads have been added to the list of protected animals. The vote received more than two thirds support.
Sharks, for the better part of two centuries, have been hunted for their use in shark fin soup mainly in China. An estimated 100 million sharks are killed each year for their fins alone. Many shark species have declined by as much as 97% in this time period. Manta Rays are quite often harvested by the Chinese who use their gills for an ingredient in traditional Chinese medicine.
This vote now means that fishermen will have to obtain a permit from local authorities in order to catch or be in possession of any of these species of shark. Costa Rica has publicly spoken out against shark finning and will likely not be offering any of these permits, as shark finning is done in the least sustainable way imaginable.
Our mantas here in the Catalina Islands and the hammerheads of the Cocos Islands look to have taken a step forward today.