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Many shark and ray species are currently traded at levels that far exceed what can be sustainably sourced. 

Achieving global and systemic change requires working with key exporting and importing countries to facilitate the collection of detailed and accurate trade information, expand Customs and commodity codes, establish traceability systems, and support the implementation of relevant international agreements. Reducing trade in illegal and unsustainable products is also a key objective.


Developing effective traceability systems for shark and ray products in trade is particularly important. Specific objectives have been identified under four major strategic axes:

  1. CITES is effective as a trade-related measure for shark and ray species, provides the impetus and framework for controlling trade in all sharks and rays, and follows processes to identify and address species requiring further protection.

  2. Shark and ray trading countries collect and report accurate trade information.

  3. Adequate traceability systems are in place for shark and ray products in trade.

  4. Shark and ray trading countries implement the 2009 FAO Responsible Trade Guidelines.

2025  Goal:

Effective trade controls are in place to ensure international trade in sharks and rays, and the products derived from them, is legal, sustainable and traceable.

Plan of Action

Responsible trade objectives will be achieved by working with the major trading countries that together represent a large portion of the total products traded, thereby maximizing global conservation benefits.

Four broad sets of actions will allow us to achieve the 2025 Responsible Trade Goal:

  1. Support CITES implementation through improvements to governance frameworks, trade control implementation, data collection, traceability, and identification of products in trade, and promote such improvements for all shark and ray species that are caught and traded.

  2. Identify – and bring to the attention of both authorities and consumers – additional at-risk species in trade and encourage CITES, regional and/or national controls on trade in the relevant shark and ray products.

  3. Improve trade-monitoring methods to ensure accurate information is submitted to RFBs and FAO by priority trading countries/territories.

  4. Produce evidence – using controlled trials – that a traceability system for shark and ray products can be practically and cost-effectively implemented from boat to market, generating necessary support for regulations by the use of traceability systems which make use of detailed labeling, tagging and other methods.

Selected Activities
  • Developing training packages for CITES NDF guidance for sharks and rays

  • Advocating for the adoption of CITES compliance measures.

  • Creating a monitoring system to compile available trade information and detect short-term changes in trends from key trading countries.

  • Supporting the development of accurate, more specific Customs codes for priority commodities and species.

  • Designing, testing, validating and verifying a traceability system for shark fisheries, whether they be as a result of direct targeting or a secondary catch.

  • Identifying and promoting restrictions on species in trade that are at a high risk of over exploitation due to inherent vulnerability and/or inadequate management.

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