The Conference of Parties (COP) held their 11th meeting to the Convention on the Conservation Of Migratory Species Of Wild Animals (CMS), which concluded on 9 November after debating for six days.
A record 900 delegates from across the globe attended the convention in Quito, Equador, to set strict conservation actions for vulnerable migratory species across the globe.
‘Never before in the 35-year history of CMS, have migratory animals become the global flagships for many of the pressing issues of our time,’ said Bradnee Chambers, the convention’s Executive Secretary. ‘From plastic pollution in our oceans to the effects of climate change, to poaching and overexploitation, the threats migratory animals face will eventually affect us all.’
Among the species targeted for a focused conservation approach were the reef manta rays. These form part of the Mobulids family, which is separated into mobula rays and manta rays, between them containing eleven species of plankton eating ray.
GEOFACT: Did you know the genus ‘manta ray’ was split into two separate species in 2009: the giant oceanic manta, which can grow up to span seven metres; and the smaller reef manta, which grows to about half the size and lives around reefs rather than in the open ocean. In 2011, the giant manta became the first ray to be listed on the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species (CMS), but the reef manta, as well as many other rays, remained unprotected.
Geographical covered the growing threat to mantas from fishermen in The Million Dollar Mantas. We reported on the booming trade in their gill rakers which recently started to be sold as a so-called traditional Chinese remedy and threatens to exterminate key populations of mantas.
Although there are bans in place for the trade of manta parts, their migratory lifestyle means international co-operation is needed to ensure their continued protection, as they naturally cross vast distances, spanning national boundaries and their differing fishing laws.
There are two appendices of the CMS and each give animals a different level of protection. Appendix One includes measures like national habitat conservation and removing obstacles that inhibit migration; Appendix Two involves reshaping international shipping regulations and oil exploration laws.
The Quito meeting, dubbed the ‘Shark Conference’ by some due to the unprecedented attention for shark and ray species. In total 21 species of shark, ray and sawfish were approved, out of a total 31 species of fish, bird and mammals that were added across both appendices of the CMS.
Species also approved included the Cuvier’s beaked whale, polar bear, red-fronted gazelle and Pacific loggerhead turtle, as well as several species of bird including the great bustard and the Canada warbler.
‘The decisions made by governments at the CMS conference reflects the growing awareness that the responsibility for protecting wildlife is a shared one, and that the threats to wildlife can be tackled most effectively through global cooperation,’ said Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme, which administers the convention.