The recent landings of 30 Giant Devil Rays off the Turkish coast has seriously ticked off several conservation groups.
According to Turkish news reports published earlier this month, fishermen caught the rays unexpectedly and landed them in the port of Izmir with plans to export the meat to Greece.
The problem is, under a 2012 measure adopted by the General Fisheries Commission for the Mediterranean (GFCM), landing and selling this species is banned. The measure applies to all shark and ray species listed under a special protocol of the Barcelona Convention, and Turkey and Greece are Parties to both agreements.
Sonja Fordham, president of Shark Advocates International, a project of The Ocean Foundation, said:
“This egregious take of exceptionally vulnerable Giant Devil Rays flies in the face of multiple well-founded policies aimed at strictly protecting the species. 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.”
Ali Hood, conservation director for the Shark Trust, said:
“We are deeply concerned that this blatant ignorance or disregard of binding measures runs counter to GFCM reports that implementation of the 2012 shark and ray measure has progressed well, including in Turkey and Greece. We will press both Turkish Authorities and the GFCM to immediately address troubling gaps, as part of an ongoing campaign to ensure compliance with the measures that are essential for the recovery of the Mediterranean’s beleaguered sharks and rays.”
All nine Devil Ray species are listed as endangered under more than one international convention. They give birth to just one pup every one to three years, leaving them particularly susceptible to overfishing.
Ania Budziak, associate director for Project AWARE, said:
“Divers are especially fond of Devil and closely related Manta Rays, and we have fought hard to win them protections under wildlife treaties. We are especially eager to see the CITES listings come into force in the coming weeks, as they are key to preventing Devil Ray trade from contributing to further population declines, and could help to remove the incentive to land rays that are caught incidentally in fisheries targeting other species.”
For more info, check out the Project AWARE website.