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CITES conference to consider new trade rules for marine, timber
and other wildlife species
Governments will also adopt a strategic
vision and decisions on enforcement and livelihoods
May 2007 – The Convention on International Trade in Endangered
Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) will hold its next triennial
conference in The Hague from 3 to 15 June to decide how to improve
the wildlife trade regime.
Among other issues, the participating Governments will consider
some 40 new proposals
for amending the rules for specific species. Many of these proposals
reflect growing international concern about the accelerating destruction
of the world’s marine and forest resources through overfishing
and excessive logging.
Others seek to advance the protection or sustainable use of
diverse plants, reptiles, birds and mammals. Still others aim
to recognize conservation successes by removing from the CITES
Appendices species that are no longer threaten by overexploitation.
Other issues on the agenda include the adoption of a new strategic
vision for the period 2008 to 2013, the enforcement of CITES regulations
and the control of illegal trade, and the potential impacts of
CITES measures on the livelihoods of the rural poor, who are often
on the frontlines of managing and caring for wildlife.
In addition, the Government of the Netherlands will organize
CITES’ first Ministerial debate on Wednesday 13 June. The
debate will focus on timber, fisheries and how CITES can best
support the enforcement efforts of its Parties to combat illegal
“For over 30 years CITES has played an important role
in ensuring that the wildlife trade is managed sustainably and
does not threaten the survival of any species. The acute challenges
of the 21st century – from achieving the 2010 target for
reducing the rate of loss of biodiversity to realizing the Millennium
Development Goals by 2015 – make CITES more relevant today
than ever before,” said Executive Director Achim Steiner
of the United Nations Environment Programme, which administers
the CITES secretariat.
“It is vital that CITES continue to evolve so that it
can respond effectively to the growing challenges facing our natural
environment and the communities that most depend upon it. The
debate over the inclusion of additional high-value fishery and
timber species will be an important indicator of the direction
CITES is likely to take over the coming years,” said CITES
Secretary-General Willem Wijnstekers.
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United
Nations (FAO), in 2002 the world’s capture (non-aquaculture)
fisheries produced 93.2 million tonnes of fish, of which 84.5
million came from the sea. The value of the total marine and freshwater
catch at the first point of sale was around USD 78 billion. As
a result, it is estimated that some 47 % of marine fish stocks
or species groups are fully exploited, 18 % overexploited and
10 % significantly depleted or recovering from depletion. (See
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 and the great white
shark and the humphead wrasse in 2004. This year’s proposals
(see www.cites.org/eng/cop/14/prop/index.shtml) seek to expand
CITES coverage of marine species to two other sharks, the European
eel, red or pink coral, sawfishes, a type of cardinelfish popular
in the aquarium trade and finally two species of lobsters.
The spiny dogfish (Proposal
no. 16) 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 featuring in British “fish and chips”
shops) and elsewhere. Like 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 track. Germany
on behalf of the European Community (EC) proposes listing the
dogfish in Appendix II (which manages trade through a permit system)
and establishing a sustainable fishery management programme for
The porbeagle shark (Prop.
15) has also experienced population declines, notably in the
northern Atlantic and the Mediterranean, owing to unsustainable
fishing for its high-value meat and fins. The proposal by Germany
on behalf of the EC notes the lack of consistent data on the global
catch of this species. It argues that requiring CITES export permits
would ensure that international markets are supplied by fish from
sustainably managed fisheries that keep accurate records.
The European eel (Prop.
18) spawns in the Sargasso Sea in the eastern Atlantic. The
larvae then ride the Gulf Stream on a three-year migration towards
Europe, where they enter estuaries and metamorphose into young
fish. A popular food, eels live in coastal and freshwater ecosystems
throughout Europe and the Mediterranean. Noting that stocks have
declined dramatically over the past several decades owing to overfishing
and other causes, Germany on behalf of the EC is proposing to
require export permits by listing the eel on Appendix II.
The most valuable of all the precious corals, red or
pink coral (Prop.
21) has 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 throughout 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 dramatic population declines. The
United States proposes adding the red or pink coral to Appendix
II to control the trade.
Once widespread from the tropics to the temperate latitudes,
and living mostly in coastal areas, sawfishes
(Prop. 17) have seen
their numbers decline by over 90 % throughout their range. Their
rostral saws, teeth, fins and another body parts bring high prices
and are used in traditional medicine and as curios, while live
specimens are sought for aquaria. If agreed in The Hague, the
proposal by Kenya, Nicaragua and the United States would add sawfishes
to Appendix I, which would forbid all international commercial
The Banggai cardinelfish (Prop.
19) has been popular in the aquarium trade since 1995, with
some 700,000 to 900,000 fish now being collected every year. Its
limited geographic range, small population and particular reproductive
habits render it particularly vulnerable to overexploitation.
The proposal of the United States calls for managing this species
through the CITES permit system. It also argues that existing
captive-breeding facilities could meet much of the demand.
Finally, Brazil proposes a CITES Appendix-II listing for the
Brazilian populations of the Caribbean spiny lobster
and the smoothtail spiny lobster (Prop.
20). It states that after 50 years of intense commercial exploitation,
these two species have been over-fished for export to international
food markets. The lobsters live in coastal waters, including reefs
and seaweed banks, and take some four years to reach full maturity.
It is widely recognized that tropical forests are under severe
pressure from logging and land conversion. FAO estimates that
the world lost over 0.8 % of its tropical forests every year between
1980 and 1990. From 1990 to 2000, the annual loss of forest cover
in many tropical countries continued to be significant, in many
cases over 1 % per year.
Timber trees, like fishery species, have only recently started
to be covered by CITES. However, as loggers scour the remaining
tracts of forest and selectively remove high-value timbers, concern
has grown over the need for better controls. The CITES member
States have already agreed to include Latin America’s bigleaf
mahogany and Southeast Asia’s ramin and agarwood trees in
Germany on behalf of the EC is proposing an Appendix-II listing
for three species of rosewood (Props.
31 and 32). This
species grows only in the swamp forests of southern Belize and
nearby regions of Guatemala and Mexico. The proposal argues that
this species is threatened by increasing deforestation in the
region and that it is very much sought after as tonewood for musical
instruments. Easier access to its habitat and declining stocks
of other rosewoods may boost trade levels.
The cedar (Prop.
33) of Central and South America, once a common tree, has
been selectively cut for at least 250 years for its timber. This
timber is valued locally for its resistance to rotting and insects
and internationally as a precious wood. The cedar also suffers
from extensive deforestation. To protect the species from being
further reduced throughout its natural range, Germany on behalf
of the EC proposes listing it on Appendix II and requiring trade
The long-running global debate over the African elephant
has focused on the benefits that income from ivory sales may bring
to conservation and to local communities living side by side with
these large and potentially dangerous animals and concerns that
such sales may encourage poaching. This year’s proposals
(Props. 4 to 6) again reflect opposing views on how best to improve
the conservation of the world’s largest land animal.
CITES banned the international commercial ivory trade in 1989.
Then, in 1997, recognizing that some southern African elephant
populations were healthy and well managed, it permitted Botswana,
Namibia and Zimbabwe to make a one-time sale of a stock of ivory
to Japan totalling 50 tonnes. The sales took place in 1999 and
earned some USD 5 million.
In 2002, CITES agreed in principle to allow a second sale from
Botswana (20 tonnes), Namibia (10 tonnes) and South Africa (30
tonnes). (In 2004 a request that CITES authorize annual quotas
was not agreed.) The one-time sales were made conditional on the
ability of the MIKE programme (Monitoring of Illegal Killing of
Elephants) to establish up-to-date and comprehensive baseline
data on elephant poaching and population levels. MIKE was established
to provide an objective assessment of what impact future ivory
sales may have on elephant populations and poaching.
To date, the CITES Standing Committee, which oversees the implementation
of CITES decisions when the Conference of the Parties to CITES
(CoP) is not in session, has not determined that the MIKE baseline
data have been assembled, and so the sales have not taken place.
This issue will be revisited when the Standing Committee meets
again in The Hague on 2 June, just before the opening of the CoP.
For this year’s conference, Botswana and Namibia have
jointly submitted a new proposal to maintain the elephant populations
of Botswana, Namibia, South Africa and Zimbabwe in Appendix II
while easing the conditions for permitting future sales of ivory.
In addition, Botswana is requesting authorization for a one-off
sale of 40 tonnes of existing ivory stocks followed by an annual
export quota of up to eight tonnes of ivory per year from its
Taking the opposing view, Kenya and Mali are proposing that a
ban on trade in raw or worked ivory from Botswana, Namibia, South
Africa and Zimbabwe be imposed for a period of 20 years. They
argue that allowing any trade in ivory will increase the poaching
A meeting of the African range States is scheduled to take place
in advance of the conference, on 31 May and 1 June, in an effort
to produce a regional consensus on how to move forward together
on managing the continent’s elephant herds.
Other listing proposals
The slow loris (Prop.
1) is a small, nocturnal primate that is native to South and
Southeast Asia. The proposal states that the two species of slow
loris are threatened by high and growing demand in Asian countries
for traditional medicines and pets. They also suffer from escalating
habitat destruction. Cambodia contends that transferring these
species from Appendix II to Appendix I, thereby forbidding all
commercial trade, would help raise public awareness of the need
to protect it and would boost national conservation measures.
Algeria proposes adding several gazelle species
(Props. 10 to 12)
to Appendix I. Guatemala seeks to transfer the beaded
lizard (Prop. 14)
from Appendix II to I. Uganda would like to transfer the population
of Ugandan leopards (Prop.
3) from Appendix I to Appendix II to allow limited trade in
sports trophies. Brazil proposes moving the Brazilian population
of the black caiman (Prop.
13) from Appendix I to Appendix II. Other proposals call for
removing species altogether from CITES on the grounds that they
no longer require such protection. These include a type of agave
(Prop. 22), a succulent
plant, the North American bobcat (Prop.
2), the ornamental plant oconee bells (Prop.
28) and several cactus species (Props. 24
The strategic vision, enforcement and other issues
The meeting will negotiate and adopt a new text to replace the
strategic vision adopted in the year 2000. The
purpose of the updated strategic vision will be to improve the
working of the Convention and to ensure that policy developments
under CITES are aligned with changes in international environmental
priorities. (See document CoP14 Doc. 11.)
The current draft of the text emphasizes how CITES can: help
to meet the UN Millennium Development Goals; reduce significantly
the rate of biodiversity loss by 2010; ensure stewardship of natural
resources and their use at sustainable levels; safeguard wildlife
as an integral part of the global ecosystem on which all life
depends; achieve deeper understanding of the cultural, social
and economic issues at play in producer and consumer countries;
promote wider involvement of civil society in the development
of conservation policies and practices; and give greater attention
to international trade in timber and aquatic species.
The illegal trade in wildlife and the effective enforcement
of CITES regulations remain major concerns for governments and
feature prominently on the conference agenda. For example, delegates
will debate how to improve information gathering in order to obtain
a better overview of worldwide smuggling and illicit trade. They
will also be asked to reconvene the CITES Enforcement Expert Group,
which consists of officials from a variety of national and international
law enforcement agencies, to address this issue.
Other enforcement issues on the table include specific species
heavily targeted by wildlife criminals, notably: elephants, great
apes and tigers, sturgeon and mahogany; the possible role of the
Internet in facilitating illegal trade; and special missions that
have been undertaken by the CITES Secretariat to examine illegal
trade. Recent missions have included visits to forests and ports
in Indonesia, conducted in collaboration with UNEP’s Great
Ape Survival Project, to study the harvesting and smuggling of
orang-utans, and travel to the Tibet Autonomous Region of China
to examine the use of tiger and leopard skins in clothing. This
work aims to provide insights into the difficulties faced by operational
law enforcement personnel and to identify ways in which they can
be supported by the CITES community. (See documents CoP14 Doc.
23 to 32.)
While the primary goal of CITES is to conserve biodiversity,
governments have recognized that there are linkages between biodiversity
and conservation and the livelihoods of poor
people. There are also ethical, political and pragmatic reasons
for taking into account the potential impacts of CITES regulations
on the livelihoods of the poor. The conference will explore practical
measures for achieving this, including a proposal for making a
series of assessments and case studies of how CITES decisions
currently impact livelihoods. (See document CoP14 Doc.
Delegates will also consider a recommendation that the Addis
Ababa Principles and Guidelines for the Sustainable Use of Biodiversity,
which have been agreed under the Convention on Biological Diversity,
be considered as a voluntary additional tool that governments
can take full account of when implementing CITES. (See document
CoP14 Doc. 13.)
Backgrounder: Understanding CITES
Thousands of species are used by people in their daily lives
as pets or for food, fashion or health care. CITES recognizes
that commercial trade in these plants and animals may be beneficial
both to conservation and to the livelihoods of local people. When
wildlife trade is unregulated, it can seriously damage populations
of species, especially those that are already vulnerable as a
result of other factors, such as habitat loss. Governments responded
to this concern by adopting CITES in 1973 to regulate the international
wildlife trade so as to ensure that it remains at a sustainable
level. With some 171 Parties, CITES remains one of the world's
most powerful tools for biodiversity conservation through the
regulation of trade in wild fauna and flora.
Even after commercial fishing and the timber industry are set
aside, the international trade in wildlife is big 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
CITES provides three regulatory options in the form of Appendices.
Animals and plants listed in Appendix I are excluded from international
commercial trade except in very special circumstances. Appendix
I contains about 530 animal species and a little more
than 300 plant species, including all the great apes, various
big cats such as cheetahs, the snow leopard and the tiger, numerous
birds of prey, cranes, and pheasants, all sea turtles, many species
of crocodiles, tortoises and snakes, and some cacti and orchids.
Commercial international trade is permitted for species listed
in Appendix II, but it is strictly controlled on the basis of
CITES permits. This Appendix II covers over 4,460
animal species and 28,000 plant species, including all those primates,
cats, cetaceans, parrots, crocodiles and orchids not listed in
Finally, Appendix III includes species that
are protected within the borders of a member country. By including
a species in Appendix-III a country calls on others to help it
regulate trade in the listed species. This Appendix lists over
CITES, then, does much more than regulate trade in large charismatic
mammals. It sets up a green certification system for non-detrimental
wildlife trade (based on CITES permits and certificates), combats
illegal trade and related wildlife offences, promotes international
cooperation, and helps to establish management plans so that range
States can monitor and sustainably manage CITES-listed species.
CITES requires each member State to adopt the necessary national
legislation and officially designate a Management Authority that
issues permits to trade. Governments must also designate a Scientific
Authority to provide scientific advice on imports and exports.
These national authorities are responsible for implementing CITES
in close cooperation with Customs, wildlife enforcement, police
or similar agencies.
As the impact of trade on a population or a species increases
or decreases, the species can be added to the CITES Appendices,
removed from them, or transferred from one Appendix to another.
These decisions are to be based on the best biological information
available and an analysis of how different types of protection
can affect specific populations.
It is worth noting that when a species is transferred from Appendix
I to Appendix II, its protection has not necessarily been ‘downgraded’.
Rather, it can be a sign of success that a species population
has grown to the point where trade may be possible with strict
oversight. In addition, by allowing a species to be commercially
traded at sustainable levels, an Appendix-II listing can actually
improve protection by giving local people a greater stake in the
The preliminary review by the CITES Secretariat described above
focused on whether the proposals from governments have sufficiently
addressed the various listing criteria. These criteria relate
to: trade (is the species being actively traded? is trade really
the problem rather than, say, habitat destruction?); biology (what
is the scientific evidence that populations are declining or increasing?);
and other technical matters (e.g. has the proponent consulted
thoroughly with other range States?).
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