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Shark Fins on Display at CITES

Shark fins and gill plates of devil and manta rays are both hot commodities on the international black market. In Asia some people use the fins to make soup, considered a delicacy. The gill plates, which help the rays filter plankton from the water, are dried and used in traditional medicine. The Pew Charitable Trusts, a Philadelphia-based nonprofit, has a booth at this year’s meeting in Johannesburg of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), where they showcase real fins and gill plates from various species and explain the differences between them.

Sharks and rays rank high on this year’s agenda. In the photo at the top of the post is the pectoral fin of a thresher shark, named after the long tails they use to stun and catch fish. Thresher sharks will be considered for an Appendix II listing, which would add new restrictions to how they’re traded across borders.

Silky sharks, named for their smooth skin, are also up for Appendix II listing. A recent survey indicated that silky shark fins are the second most common fin type in the Hong Kong retail market, which makes up more than 50 percent of the global fin trade.

Silky shark fin
Silky shark fin

A proposal also requests Appendix II listing for all nine species of devil rays, fish that are closely related to manta rays. Here’s the gill plate of a Chilean devil ray:

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Devil ray gill plate