Conservation Groups Call on Mediterranean Officials to Better Enforce Protections

Logos: Shark Trust & Shark Advocates International

London, UK. 9th April, 2019.
Conservation groups are calling for answers and action in relation to the landing of Endangered Giant Devil Rays in Kelibia, Tunisia, in contravention of international agreements to protect the species. The incident comes just weeks after surveys of Tunis Central Market revealed landings of similarly threatened and protected guitarfishes and Spiny Butterfly Rays. The groups are asking Tunisian and regional fisheries authorities about the national gaps that allowed this take, and the steps that will be taken to prevent a reoccurrence.

We are deeply concerned over the ignorance of or blatant disregard for binding international agreements that are intended to safeguard some of the Mediterranean’s most endangered animals,” said Ali Hood, Director of Conservation for the Shark Trust. “We will press Tunisian and regional authorities to immediately address troubling gaps, as part of an ongoing campaign to ensure compliance with measures that are essential for regional shark and ray recovery.”

In 2012, the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM) banned the landing and selling of 24 at-risk shark and ray species listed under a special protocol of the Barcelona Convention. The protected species include Giant Devil Rays and two types of Guitarfishes (classified as Endangered on the IUCN Red List) as well as Spiny Butterfly Rays (classified as Critically Endangered by IUCN). Tunisia is a Party to both the GFCM and the Barcelona Convention.

The Shark Trust found and documented Spiny Butterfly Rays and guitarfishes in Tunis Central Market on 29th March, 2019. At least nine Giant Devil Rays were landed in the port of Kelibia on 6th April, 2019 and auctioned, according to footage posted on Facebook.

In addition to the Mediterranean measures, the Giant Devil Ray is listed under the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which bring additional obligations on Parties, including Tunisia, to prevent overfishing and work with other countries toward effective conservation.

This egregious take of exceptionally vulnerable Giant Devil Rays flies in the face of multiple well-founded policies aimed at protecting the species,” said Sonja Fordham, President of Shark Advocates International, a project of The Ocean Foundation. “Governments worldwide have agreed to safeguard this and closely related rays through several international treaties, but it’s fair to say that the devil is in the details - or, more specifically, in how individual countries live up to such commitments.”

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Media contact: Patricia Roy, [email protected] tel. +34 696 905 907