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Countries agree to protect endangered sharks and rays, M’sia votes against it

Countries agree to protect endangered sharks and rays, M’sia votes against it

Tasneem Nazari

On Sunday (Aug 25), 102 countries have agreed to protect more than a dozen shark species at risk of extinction.

The agreement was made at the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) conference in Geneva.

The move is an effort to conserve some of the ocean’s most awe-inspiring creatures who’s survival is threatened by commercial fishing and the widespread demand for shark fin soup, even though it’s already illegal in most countries, including China.

Picture credit: Memedroid

The measures outlined in the move don’t ban fishing these sharks and rays, but requires any trade of them to be sustainable.

The proposal covers the international trade of 18 types of mako sharks, wedgefishes and guitarfishes.

However, Malaysia, represented by the Water, Land and Natural Resources Ministry, was reportedly among 40 other countries that voted against the proposal.

Besides Malaysia, China, Iceland, Japan, and New Zealand also voted against the move. The United States voted against the mako shark measure, but supported the other two.

Critics of the move argued that the measures suggested protecting the species removed CITES’ initial mandate to protect endangered land animal and plants, not marine life.

Picture credit: Imgur

They also insisted the science didn’t support the call to increase protections as millions of Mako sharks still exist.

Meanwhile, supporters of the move responded that the global number of sharks are fast decreasing as tens of millions killed each year and therefore, measures need to be taken now.

In fact, many of the species included in the proposals are classified as “critically endangered.”

According to scientific research, while climate change and warming oceans are hurting sharks, the demand for shark fin soup is the force threatening to drive some shark species to extinction.

Out of the 18 sharks and rays included in the proposal, guitarfish and wedgefish are the only ones present in Malaysian waters.


Wedgefishes and giant guitarfishes are collectively known as “rhino rays”.

Picture credit: Me.me

This group of shark-like rays are perilously close to extinction. All six giant guitarfishes and nine out of 10 wedgefishes are critically endangered.

These rhino rays are known for their elongated bodies with a flattened head and trunk and small, ray-like wings.

Their bodies are an intermediate between those of sharks and rays. The tail has a typical shark-like form, but the head has a guitar-like shape.

They are bottom feeders that bury themselves in mud or sand and eat worms, crabs, and clams.

The main threats to rhino rays are commercial fishing to supply the shark fin trade.

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