Far-reaching consequences of CITES decisions
7 April 2010
More than 100 national governments were represented at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) meeting in Qatar in March. The decisions made by member countries can have far-reaching consequences for many at-risk creatures – and although there were some high-profile disappointments in Qatar, there were several positive results to bring away.
The countries with remaining tiger populations (the tiger range states) showed a commitment to working together to stamp out tiger trade and the epidemic of illegal poaching. The new measures they backed in Qatar will no doubt roll into the commitments to be made for tiger conservation at the Tiger Summit in September 2010.
Sadly, no further action was taken to strengthen controls on domestic trade in tiger parts and products from tiger farms, but the existing controls certainly weren’t weakened either.
Zambia’s and Tanzania’s proposals to downlist their elephant populations from CITES Appendix I (a complete international trade ban) to Appendix II (limited trade allowed through a permit system) were rejected, as was Tanzania’s request for legal sale of their ivory stockpiles. Zambia withdrew the request for their ‘one-off’ ivory sale before it was discussed.
The elephant situation in central Africa is grim. There’s been an epidemic of poaching in recent years, increasingly involving the use of high-powered rifles. An estimated 400 elephants – and even a number of the guards protecting them – have been killed in the past four years in three national parks in Cameroon alone.
The problem has worsened largely because ivory is seen to be openly on sale in central and west Africa, which encourages consumers, traders, smugglers and poachers. There’s also an increasing involvement by organised crime.
Rhinos were one of the clear winners from Qatar, with commitments made by rhino range states to address the concerns and recommendations outlined by a recent IUCN/TRAFFIC report .
To combat poaching, countries agreed to improve law enforcement by training guards to protect rhinos against poaching gangs and boosting border patrols to stop illegal smuggling.
They also agreed to raise consumer awareness of illegal animal trading, and root out the organised crime syndicates that control the trade. We now need concerted follow-up action by governments and partners to overturn the poaching crisis threatening rhino species.
Sharks and bluefin tuna
Not such good news at sea. None of the marine proposals was adopted.
In a disappointing turn of events, the one success we seemed to have on sharks was overturned. Parties later reopened the debate on the porbeagle shark and voted against its listing on Appendix II (it is currently not listed). As a result, none of the shark proposals (porbeagle, oceanic whitetip, spiny dogfish, and scalloped, great and smooth hammerheads) for listing on Appendix II was adopted.
We were particularly disappointed with the failure to agree a CITES Appendix 1 listing for Atlantic bluefin tuna, which would ban all international commercial trade in this highly threatened species.
In retrospect, though, what we lost with the vote, we gained in tremendous global visibility on this issue – and also public commitments by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) and Japan to rebuild this species and its fishery.
We’ve also made great inroads among consumers, businesses and governments on the need for bluefin conservation. This momentum will only build as we move towards the next ICCAT meeting in November.
The next CITES meeting (CoP 16) will be hosted by Thailand in 2013.
- See our work to tackle illegal wildlife trade
- Find out more about the Atlantic bluefin tuna
- Read full details of the Qatar CITES meeting