18 Feb 2010
Venue: International Environment House II
Organization: Geneva Environment Network
The 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (CoP15) to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) will be held in Doha, Qatar, from 13 to 25 March 2010. It will be preceded by the 59th meeting of the CITES Standing Committee (SC59), on 12 March 2010.
A briefing on the CITES CoP15 preparations and main issues and on the relevant items to be discussed at the 59th meeting of the Standing Committee took place at the International Environment House on 18 February 2011.
Coffee & Tea
Welcome and introduction
Christophe Bouvier, Director and Regional Representative, UNEP
Preparations for the fifteenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties and fifty-ninth meeting of the Standing Committee
Willem Wijnstekers, Secretary-General, CITES Secretariat
Stephen V. Nash, Chief, Capacity Building Unit, CITES Secretariat
- Every two to three years, the Conference of the Parties meets to review the implementation of the Convention. These meetings last for about two weeks and are usually hosted by one of the Parties.
- Next CoP, CoP-15 in Doha, Qatar, from 13 to 25 March
- UN General Assembly declared 2010 the international year of biodiversity: the CITES Conference will be one of the key occasions governments will have this year to take action to protect biodiversity.
- The Standing Committee (SC) provides policy guidance to the Secretariat concerning the implementation of the Convention and oversees the management of the Secretariat’s budget. Beyond these key roles, it coordinates and oversees, where required, the work of other committees and working groups; carries out tasks given to it by the Conference of the Parties; and drafts resolutions for consideration by the Conference of the Parties.
- SC59, to be held on 12 March.
International trade in wildlife
- International trade in wildlife remains a very lucrative business, estimated to be worth billions of dollars annually and to involve more than 350 million plant and animal specimens every year.
- Unregulated international trade can push threatened and endangered species over the brink, especially when combined with habitat loss and other pressures.
- Marine theme of this year’s CITES conference: CITES is increasingly seen as a valuable tool to achieve the target of restoring depleted fish stocks by 2015 to levels that can produce the maximum sustainable yield, as agreed at the Johannesburg World Summit on Sustainable Development.
- New measures to conserve and manage sustainably the bluefin tuna, elephant populations and a wide range of sharks, corals, reptiles, insects and plants are being proposed by governments for the next CoP.
- Over 40 proposals will be decided on in Doha. Importantly, some governments propose to lift CITES regulations on some species, underlining the success of CITES in key areas 35 years after its entry into force.
- Many of these proposals reflect growing international concern about the accelerating destruction of the world’s marine and forest ecosystems through overfishing and excessive logging, and the potential impacts of climate change on the biological resources of the planet.
- Other issues on the agenda include the adoption of urgent measures to: tackle illegal trade in the tiger, rhinos and other species that are on the brink of extinction; address the potential impacts of CITES measures on the livelihoods of the rural poor, who are often on the frontlines of using and managing wildlife; and allocate sufficient financial resources to ensure that CITES goals are fully achieved.
- A substantial budget increase will be necessary to ensure proper implementation of the measures proposed for adoption in Doha. The current annual budget of the CITES Secretariat is about USD 5 million.
Bluefin tuna and sharks
- According to FAO, the world’s capture (non-aquaculture) some 52 % of marine fish stocks or species groups are fully exploited, 19 % overexploited and 9 % depleted or recovering from depletion. The maximum wild capture fishing potential from the world’s oceans has probably been reached, and a more closely controlled approach to fisheries is required.
- A growing number of commercially exploited fish have come under CITES controls in recent years, for example: the basking and whale sharks were included in Appendix II in 2002, the great white shark and the humphead wrasse in 2004, and the European eel and sawfishes in 2007.
- At the forthcoming conference, proposals will be made to bring eight commercially fished species under the purview of CITES.
- Monaco is proposing a complete ban on international commercial trade in the bluefin tuna. (proposal 19). Although it has been fished for many centuries, its populations in the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea have undergone very substantial declines in the last 40 years. Repeated efforts have been made to ensure more sustainable fishing, but now Monaco claims that it is time to bring the international trade to a halt to allow time for the species to recover.
- The scalloped hammerhead shark (proposal 15) occurs widely in coastal warm temperate and tropical seas and is exploited extensively for its fins. Significant declines in the population of the species have been reported in many areas where it is caught. Two other species of hammerhead shark (great hammerhead and smooth hammerhead) and two further sharks (sandbar shark and dusky shark) have similar shaped fins, and the proponents, Palau and the United States of America, recommend that all these species be subject to CITES trade controls.
- The same two countries are also proposing that trade CITES controls be applied to another shark, the oceanic whitetip (proposal 16), which, in spite of its wide range in tropical and subtropical waters, has declined in numbers wherever it has been harvested for its fins.
- The porbeagle shark (proposal 17) has equally experienced population declines, notably in the northern Atlantic and the Mediterranean, owing to unsustainable fishing for its high-value meat and fins. Palau and Sweden, on behalf of the European Community Member States, note the lack of consistent data on the global catch of this species. They argues that requiring CITES export permits will ensure that international markets are supplied by fish from sustainably managed fisheries that keep accurate records.
- The spiny dogfish (proposal 18) is a small shark that was once abundant in temperate waters. It is now overexploited for its meat, which is highly valued in Europe (often sold in ‘fish and chips’ shops in the British Isles) and elsewhere. As many other sharks, it is particularly vulnerable to excessive fishing because of its slow reproductive rate. It also tends to travel in large schools of hundreds or thousands, which are easier for fishing boats to harvest them in large quantities. Palau and Sweden, on behalf of the European Community Member States, propose listing the spiny dogfish in Appendix II (which manages trade through a permit system) and establishing a sustainable fishery management programme for the species.
- The most valuable of all the precious corals, red or pink corals (proposal 21) have been harvested for over 5,000 years and used for jewellery and other decorative items. These tiny marine animals (known as polyps) build vast colonies in the tropical, subtropical and temperate oceans. The resulting reefs and colonies create extremely valuable habitat for innumerable other species. But overharvesting and the destruction of entire colonies by bottom trawls and dredges have led to major population declines. The United States and Sweden, on behalf of the European Community Member States, propose adding the red or pink corals to Appendix II to control the trade therein.
Elephants and ivory
- This year’s proposals (proposal 4, proposal 5 and proposal 6) again reflect opposing views on how best to improve the conservation and sustainable use of the world’s largest land animal.
- CITES banned the international commercial ivory trade in In 1997 and 2002, recognizing that some southern African elephant populations were healthy and well managed, it permitted Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe to sell some stocks of ivory to Japan totalling over 150 tons. The sales took place in 1999 and 2008 and earned some USD 20 million for elephant conservation and community development programmes within or adjacent to the elephant range.
- The United Republic of Tanzania and Zambia are seeking similar approval to sell government-owned stocks that have accumulated over the years. The United Republic of Tanzania has nearly 90 tons of such stock, and Zambia just over 21 tons.
- Taking the opposite view, the Congo, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Mali, Rwanda and Sierra Leone are proposing a halt to the limited international trade in African elephant ivory currently permitted and a 20-year moratorium on any proposals to relax international trade controls on African elephants.
Polar bear and other proposals
- The potential threat to the polar bear from climate change has been much discussed recently, and the United States is seeking to increase its protection in CITES by completely prohibiting international commercial trade in the species (proposal 3).
- Mexico and Egypt are seeking to reduce CITES controls on the Morelet’s crocodile and the Nile crocodile, respectively, as they believe that the status of these species in the wild has improved (proposal 8 and proposal 9).
- In contrast, Honduras and Guatemala are seeking to apply CITES controls to four species of spiny-tailed iguanas that are increasingly sought by hobbyists in other countries. (proposal 11 and proposal 12).
- The Plurinational State of Bolivia proposes that similar measures be adopted for the spectacular Satanas beetle (proposal 20), which is also sought by collectors.
- Madagascar is seeking to include 12 endemic plants in Appendix II (proposals 22-24, 26, 27, 30, 32-36 and 39-41).
- Brazil and Argentina propose the the same listing for the Brazilian rosewood (proposal 29) and the Palo Santo (proposal 42), respectively, two tree species that produce essential oils extensively used in perfumery and cosmetics.
- Other proposals call for lifting all trade restrictions on certain species on the grounds that they no longer require such protection. These include the Marsh rose (proposal 37) and the Swartland sugarbush (proposal 38) from South Africa, and the North American bobcat or lynx (proposal 2).