01 Mar 2019

Venue: Palais des Nations | Room XIV | Cinéma Room

Organization: Geneva Environment Network

On 20 December 2013, at its 68th session, the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) proclaimed 3 March, the day of signature of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), as UN World Wildlife Day to celebrate and raise awareness of the world’s wild animals and plants. The UNGA resolution also designated the CITES Secretariat as the facilitator for the global observance of this special day for wildlife on the UN calendar. World Wildlife Day has now become the most important global annual event dedicated to wildlife.

This was the first World Wildlife Day to focus on life below water. It was a great opportunity to raise awareness about the breathtaking diversity of marine life, the crucial importance of marine species to human development, and how we can make sure it will continue to provide these services for future generations.

A celebration hightlighting the contributions of the international community in Geneva to ensure sustainable use of marine species took place at Palais des Nations on Friday 1 March 2019.

This event was co-organized by CITES, UNCTAD, UNECE and UNEP, within the framework of the Geneva Environment Network.


Opening remarks and introduction

H.E. Amb. A.L.A. Azeez, Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the UN in Geneva
Mathias Lörtscher, CITES Animals Committee Chair, Head CITES Management Authority, Switzerland
Mere Falemaka, Permanent Representative of the Pacific Islands Forum to WTO

09:45– 11:30
Moderated dialogue on value of marine species and the importance of or ways to ensure sustainable use

Moderation: Karen Gaynor, CITES Secretariat

Panel discussion 1: Coordination with UN organizations

Tom De Meulenaer, Chief, Scientific Services, CITES Secretariat
David Jose Vivas Eugui, Legal Officer, UNCTAD
Maria Ceccarelli, Chief, Trade facilitation section, UNECE
Aik Hoe Lim,  Director, Trade and Environment, World Trade Organization

Q&A session

Panel discussion 2: Role of IGOs, NGOs and private sector

Javier Garat, President of Europêche
Paulus Tak, Senior Officer, Government Relations, the Pew Charitable Trusts
James Nikitine, Manaia productions / IUCN

Q&A session

Film screening
Screening of “Jago: A Life Underwater”, film from the finalists of World Wildlife Day 2019 Living Oceans Film Showcase


Opening remarks and introduction

H.E. Amb. A.L.A. Azeez, Permanent Representative of Sri Lanka to the UN in Geneva

  • Link between the World Wildlife Day and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development
  • 70% of our planet covered in water, of which nearly 96% are oceans – daily reminder on the importance of oceans
  • We cannot ignore the direct negative link between climate change, depleting fisheries and the damage to marine life
  • These are issues that the global governance system for years has addressed through multilateralism (Convention on Biodiversity, CITES, UNFCCC, Paris Climate Accord, …)
  • As an island nation, a sizeable part of our population has a close connection with the sea and changes to life in the water are challenges to life above water
  • Sri Lanka has a longstanding history of sustaining and nurturing the environment, the values and the social system of the people of Sri Lanka are closely interlinked with the protection of the environment
  • Host of COP18 of CITES in 2019                                                                           [later moved to Geneva]
  • Increasing importance of preserving life underwater
  • Commitment under different resolutions and initiatives (Clean Seas Campaign, Clean Oceans Alliance, …)
  • There is no doubt that life below water is critical for the survival of life elsewhere

Mathias Lörtscher, CITES Animals’ Committee Chair, Head CITES Management Authority, Switzerland

  • WWD is in place since 2013 – celebration of wildlife
  • Raise awareness on diversity of marine life, the crucial role of marine species on human development and discussing how to make sure to preserve it for future generations
  • Why Switzerland is the host country of CITES Secretariat? – consumer role of the country, restrict imports on endangered species, active role in the bodies of the Convention, sustainability when developing national legislation
  • Addition to CITES list – further help conservation
  • Animals’ Committee – ensures sustainability of CITES trade, by implementing processes endorsed by the COP

Mere Falemaka, Permanent Representative of the Pacific Islands Forum to WTO

  • Regional point of view
  • Oceans’ importance for the life of people of the Pacific Islands can’t even be described – dependence for food security, economic and social development
  • To protect the life of our oceans, a lot of initiatives undertaken by regional actors, especially the Pacific Islands Forum
  • Working at international level (push for SDG14, ensure countries adopt resolutions related to the protection of marine life, research on oceans, …)
  • Adoption of the Pacific Regional Oceans Policy: conservation of marine diversity
  • Implementing policies to improve marine life’s situation (Action Plan for 2019, Sustainable Pacific Fisheries)
  • Supporting members at national level in the various initiatives that they are undertaking to protect marine life, including monitoring, compliance, surveillance and enforcement of national laws and international treaties
  • Recognition of the importance of community-based fisheries, strengthening of community-based management of sea resources at regional level

Moderated dialogue on value of marine species and the importance of or ways to ensure sustainable use

Panel discussion 1: Coordination with UN organizations

Tom De Meulenaer, Chief, Scientific Services, CITES Secretariat

  • In the last decade, CITES Convention has enlarged a lot, many more species included in appendixes
  • Many included in appendix 2: international trade is allowed, but it must be sustainable, traceable and legal
  • Parties to the Convention must effectively implement it
  • SDG14 – efforts to contribute to its achievement, working increasingly with partners (FAO, …)
  • Working to help Parties to implement CITES Convention
  • How much of a species can be in the market so that it is sustainable? How do you control the amount?

David Jose Vivas Eugui, Legal Officer, UNCTAD

  • Tackle practices that are not sustainable: illegal fishing, harmful subsidies,
  • Enable sustainable practices: focus on marine biodiversity for edible and non-edible (cosmetics, pharmaceuticals) purposes
  • Plan of Action to facilitate the implementation of trade related aspects to protection of oceans – trade as a means
  • Negotiations with the WTO to have a comprehensive agreement to address fishing subsidies
  • Work on national capacity-building, help countries to develop their own national economic and trade strategies related to oceans in a sustainable manner, to protect fishes, corals and other marine life
  • SDG14 is too big for a single entity to achieve, cooperation among different stakeholders: governments, scientists, businesses

Maria Ceccarelli, Chief, Trade facilitation section, UNECE

  • 3.1 billion people rely on fish for almost 20% of their per capita intake of animal protein
  • Healthy fish stocks – sustainable management and consumption
  • Destructive practices are widespread (illicit fishing, …) – economic damage, threat to local biodiversity and to food security
  • Until 2016, fisheries management is based on large data sharing between fisheries’ organizations; however, that data is not reliable
  • From 2016 onwards, concrete solution: open global standard to manage sustainably fisheries (UN FLUX) – automatic exchange of information (vessels’ identification, quantity of fish, area of fishing, …) between fisheries’ organization
  • UNECE created in 2017 a team on sustainable fisheries with several stakeholders – now focused on promotion and capacity-building on UN FLUX worldwide

Aik Hoe Lim, Director, Trade and Environment, WTO

  • One of the main challenges has to do with value: how do we give value to marine species?
  • When prices are not optimal, marine resources are exploited unsustainably
  • On this point WTO can play a very important role – pricing of marine resources depends on regulations and on the market instruments that governments are using
  • Create negative incentives to protect marine life – need to eliminate subsidies to fisheries who fish illegally
  • Need to have much more public and political support
  • Base trade on harmonized standards for sustainability
  • Exchange of views and practices among governments is very important

Panel discussion 2: Role of IGOs, NGOs and private sector

Javier Garat, President of Europêche

  • Representing the Association of European ship owners: want a sustainable fishing
  • We would be nothing without oceans
  • Ocean wildlife is under threat: fish catches originates from broad range of wild populations
  • Environment largely unmodified by man
  • Global population is growing and is looking at oceans for food
  • Strengthen management and conservation tools for fisheries
  • 100 species estimated to go extinct on land each year, no fish species are estimated to go extinct
  • CITES is an important tool complementing established fisheries’ management approaches
  • Invest in support to developing countries to implement CITES

Paulus Tak, Senior Officer, Government Relations, the Pew Charitable Trusts

  • Problem of legal overfishing: states continue to allow fishing for quantities that are not sustainable
  • Progress has been made in the last decade
  • Sharks: many species added to CITES, regulate the trade in fins; however, only 17% of the trade is regulated under CITES
  • Looking forward to negotiating and implementing new regulations

James Nikitine, Manaia productions / IUCN

  • We are all connected to the oceans
  • Time of crisis: climate change, acidification, deoxygenation, 8bl tons of plastic entering the oceans each year, deep sea mining, …
  • How do you communicate the crises that the oceans are facing to the general public?
  • Importance of ocean literacy: “Knowing is the key to caring, and with caring there’s hope that people will be motivated to take positive actions. They might not care even if they know, but they can’t care if they are unaware.” – Sylvia A. Earle


Q: Achieving SDG14 needs cooperation among different organizations. Since Geneva is an international hub and an international city, how do we improve cooperation among international organizations?
TDM: In Geneva there are already opportunities that exist in terms of exchanging ideas. I heard that some of my colleagues will join us at the COP18 in Sri Lanka [later moved to Geneva], and we can see and negotiate on the provisions and regulations for the next three years because we do a COP every three years. I think there are already existing opportunities in Geneva, so it is a matter of engaging with each other.
MC: I just wanted to extend the invitation to our Team of Specialists on Sustainable Fisheries, the next meeting is in April at the Palais des Nations. Many of you are already participating so I hope I will see even more. We could also use to see what to do next and how do we move from there on the theme.
DJVE: Now that we are all here at the World Wildlife Day, I would say that the community is working on the restauration of biodiversity and on the loss of marine biodiversity, so one options is to use these gatherings to create an alliance, a global alliance, especially in awareness raising on conservation and sustainable use of marine wildlife. That could be very active in forums such as the UN Oceans Summit in Lisbon. Finally, we need cooperation among different sectors: international organizations, governments, civil society, businesses and the peoples.
AHL: We need to work very closely with governments because they are the ones who will bring about change. Governments cannot do that alone, as they are not isolated from civil society. We must find a way so that working at international level can transfer to national level. Think about more joint activities at national level, bringing different government actors together.



The event was live on Facebook.