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Governments to consider new CITES trade controls
for high-value marine and timber species
New rules also proposed for elephant ivory and dozens
of threatened plants and animals
Geneva, 28 February 2007 – The Secretariat of the Convention
on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and
Flora (CITES) has published a provisional scientific and technical
assessment of some 40 new
government proposals for amending wildlife trade rules. Governments
will accept or reject these proposals at the next triennial CITES
conference, to be held in The Hague from 3 to 15 June.
Many of the 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 endangered.
“Biological diversity faces many threats, ranging from
habitat destruction to climate change to unrestrained commercial
harvesting for trade. By ensuring that the international trade
in wildlife is carefully managed, CITES seeks to reward people
engaged in sustainable trade while protecting the world’s
biological diversity”, said Executive Director Achim Steiner
of the United Nations Environment Programme, which administers
the CITES secretariat.
“This year’s CITES conference will consider an increased
number of proposals for high-value species from the oceans and
forests. This confirms that many governments increasingly view
CITES as a vital tool for safeguarding the ecological and commercial
future of key fisheries and timber-producing forests,” 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, 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 species.
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
The most valuable of all the precious corals, pink coral (Prop.
21) has been fished 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 pink coral to Appendix II to
control the trade therein.
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
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 overfished
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
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 versus concerns
that such sales may encourage poaching. This year’s proposals
(Props. 4 to 7) again reflect opposing views on how best to improve
the conservation and sustainable use of the world’s largest
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 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.
In October 2006, however, the CITES Standing Committee, which
oversees the implementation of CITES decisions when the Conference
of the Parties to CITES (COP) is not in session, determined that
the MIKE baseline data was not yet sufficiently complete and so
the sales could not go forward. This issue will be revisited when
the Standing Committee meets again in The Hague just before the
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. 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 national population.
Meanwhile, the United Republic of Tanzania is for the first
time recommending that its elephant populations be transferred
from Appendix I to Appendix II, with no immediate quota, thus
also opening up the possibility for future sales. It argues that
trade in ivory would be sustainable and a valuable instrument
Taking the opposing view, Kenya and Mali are proposing a trade
ban in raw or worked ivory from all range States be imposed for
a period of 20 years. They argue that allowing any trade in ivory
will increase the poaching of elephants.
The CITES Secretariat believes that all of this year’s
elephant proposals contain technical problems and a meeting of
the African range States is scheduled to take place in advance
of the conference.
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
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 or lynx (Prop.
2), the ornamental plant oconee bells (Prop. 28) and several cactus
species (Props. 24 and 25).
Backgrounder: Understanding CITES
Thousands of species around the world are endangered or at risk
as a result of human activities such as habitat destruction, overharvesting
and pollution. CITES was adopted in 1973 to address the threat
posed by just one of these activities: unsustainable international
trade. With some 169 Parties, CITES is one of the world's most
important agreements on species conservation and the non-detrimental
use of wildlife.
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 Appendix
Finally, Appendix III includes species that are protected within
the borders of a member country. An Appendix-III listing allows
a country to call on others to help it regulate trade in the listed
species. This Appendix lists over 290 species.
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 trade permits. 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 well-regulated trade may be possible.
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 species’
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?).
Note to journalists: For more information,
contact Michael Williams at +41-79-409-1528 (cell), +41-22-917-8242
(office), firstname.lastname@example.org; or Juan-Carlos Vasquez at
+41-22-917-8156 (office) or email@example.com. The proposals
are posted at www.cites.org/eng/cop/14/prop/index.shtml. The Secretariat’s
technical review is also posted at www.cites.org.
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