Sri Lanka’s waters are home to 63 shark and 42 ray species, but many are threatened by overexploitation to feed the growing demand for shark fins, meat, and liver oil.
But the country is looking to change that, rolling out a raft of regulations in the past two decades to protect various shark species domestically, and, more recently, spearheading a push for the global protection of highly exploited and endangered mako sharks.
Among the many proposals it supported at last month’s global summit of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), Sri Lanka called for the inclusion of the two species of mako sharks, shortfin (Isurus oxyrinchus) and longfin (I. paucus), in CITES Appendix II, which would subject their trade to strict rules. It also called for similar protections for six species of giant guitarfishes and 10 species of wedgefishes.
The IUCN Red List includes both species of mako sharks as endangered, all six species of giant guitarfishes as critically endangered, and nine of the 10 species of wedgefishes as critically endangered.
“All these species have seen very steep declines in their populations in recent decades and this is mostly due to overfishing, habitat destruction and degradation,” Rima Jabado, the IUCN Shark Specialist Group’s regional vice-chair for the Indian Ocean, told Mongabay. Kim Friedman, senior fisheries resources officer at the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), said a mere listing would not protect the species. “It matters to change the management framework of fisheries to get implemented at ground level.”