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CITES 101: Pew Experts Discuss Protection for Sharks and Manta Rays

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It’s big business, a big vote, and a big moment for sharks.

The Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, or CITES, takes place in Bangkok, Thailand - March 3 to 14. 

At this critical meeting, governments will debate adding five species of sharks and two species of manta rays to the treaty. A positive result will limit international trade of shark fin and meat and manta gill rakers and help reduce the threat of over fishing facing these species.

For nearly 40 years, CITES has shielded thousands of plants and animals from overexploitation through international trade.  This treaty is considered one of the best-enforced international conservation agreements.

Pew experts highlight key issues under discussion and potential outcomes for this important meeting.

Episode 1: Sharks' Big Hope

In the first installment, Sue Lieberman explains which of the seven species advocates are seeking to protect at this year's conference and how the CITES treaty works to protect more than 30,000 endangered species. Download Transcript (PDF).

Episode 2: The Case for Conservation

In this interview, shark expert Elizabeth Wilson explains the role sharks play as top predators in the food web and what changes when their numbers dwindle. Sharks are more like marine mammals, Wilson says, and can be overfished quickly. Download Transcript (PDF).

Episode 3: Back to Bangkok

In the third segment, Pew expert Susan Lieberman talks about how attitudes and politics have changed since 2004, the last time Thailand hosted the conference. "I’ve been to every CITES meeting since 1989, and we're seeing a lot more attention on fish, marine species, on sharks, than ever before," Lieberman says. "It's going to be hard, but I think the politics have changed."   Download Transcript

Read more about each episode:


Sue LiebermanSue Lieberman
Deputy Director, International Policy

Susan Lieberman joined Pew in August 2009 as deputy director of International Policy. She leads an integrated program focused on treaties, regional fisheries management organizations and other intergovernmental organizations to achieve Pew’s marine conservation goals.

Read bio


Elizabeth WilsonElizabeth Wilson
Manager, Global Shark Conservation Campaign

Elizabeth Wilson joined Pew in 2011. Wilson leads the development of the campaign’s policy positions and day to day operations related to international forums including the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and the regional fisheries management organizations (RFMOs).

Read bio



Related News and Resources

  • Chinese Business Executives Lead the Way on Shark Conservation

    • Other Resource
    • Apr 22, 2014

    Four of China’s most successful business executives have been recognized as “Global Shark Guardians” for their work securing a ban on shark fin soup at Chinese state banquets. On April 17, The Pew Charitable Trusts, The Nature Conservancy, and WildAid honored Guo Guangchang, Wan Jie, Ding Liguo, and Zhang “Jim” Xingsheng at the annual meeting of the China-U.S. Business Leaders Roundtable in New York.


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