The ancient, cartilaginous fish species need protection by CITES -- the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora -- meeting in Thailand this week, the Wildlife Conservation Society said.
Government delegates to the 16th meeting of the 178 CITES member states can help conserve some of the world's most threatened sharks and rays by agreeing to extend CITES measures to these species, the WCS said.
Many shark and ray species are threatened with extinction as a result of directed fishing and unintentional fisheries "bycatch," much of which is driven by the high demand for their fins and meat used in shark fin soup and other dishes, a WCS release said Wednesday.
The United States, Brazil, Ecuador, and more than 30 other countries have proposed listing several shark and ray species under CITES.
"We commend the leadership of the United States and other government sponsors in requesting these essential measures to control and monitor international trade in these shark and ray species, and we implore other governments to vote in their favor," WCS President Cristian Samper said.
Currently only a few shark and ray species -- the whale shark, basking shark, great white shark, and seven sawfishes -- are listed, he said.