Statement - Trade in live dolphins

For use of the media only;
not an official document.

Geneva, 5 March 2004


Trade in live dolphins

The Secretariat has been made aware of serious concerns regarding a number of recent cases of trade in live dolphins. Unfortunately, certain of the statements made in the media and in correspondence to the Secretariat contain allegations and interpretations of the Convention that are clearly inaccurate and sometimes misleading.

Trade in dolphins of species included in Appendix I of the Convention is not allowed when: the import is for primarily commercial purposes or for purposes which are considered detrimental to the survival of the species; the export is considered to be detrimental to the survival of the species; the specimens have been obtained illegally; or the proposed recipient is not suitably equipped to house and care for the animals. The Convention describes the responsibilities of both the Management and Scientific Authorities for these issues in the country of export and in the country of import. Several organizations have recently written about trade in dolphins of an Appendix-I species that took place in 1999 between Thailand and Singapore. The Secretariat has contacted the Management Authorities of the countries concerned with a request for detailed information. Until it receives replies, it is inappropriate for the Secretariat to comment further.

Trade in bottlenose dolphins and animals of other species listed in Appendix II to the Convention is allowed under certain conditions: the export must not be detrimental to the survival of the species and the animals must have been legally obtained and exported. Shipments must also be in accordance with the IATA Live Animal Regulations. The Convention contains no specifications with regard to the use and housing of the animals in the importing country, which is - unlike for Appendix-I species - not required to issue an import permit.

The Secretariat continues to investigate trade in live bottlenose dolphins between the Solomon Islands and Mexico (see the previous statement from the Secretariat in that regard).

Trade in live bottlenose dolphins from Guinea-Bissau has also been reported but the Secretariat has been further advised that the species is totally protected under national legislation and that these reports on trade are unfounded.

The Secretariat is aware of proposed trade in live bottlenose dolphins from Guyana and is reviewing supporting documentation provided by the Government.

The CITES Secretary-General, Willem Wijnstekers, said:

"I recognize that many people are against trade in live animals and particularly against trade in live marine mammals for a variety of reasons. That is one reason why we are particularly alert to possible cases of illegal trade and (also for Appendix II species) follow up allegations. One should realize, however, that when trade is legal, the decision on whether it takes place is not taken by the CITES Secretariat. It is therefore not very useful to lobby the Secretariat or to inundate my staff or myself with standard-type emails. In fact this is counter-productive. I only have a small team of people and email or other campaigns hamper our efforts to investigate information on alleged illegal trade in wildlife seriously. It is sufficient to be informed once about each case. Equally counter-productive is the time we are required to spend on correcting misinformation and wrong statements about what is or not permitted under CITES. We have a very informative website which also provides us with a means to disseminate information quickly and widely. We will of course be as responsive as we can to queries from the public and the media, but our communication on issues that generate significant interest is managed through the website rather than through separate replies to individuals. I am sure people will understand this."