The 16th meeting of the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES), which recently took place in Bangkok, resulted in a historic regulation of international trade of five species of sharks and manta rays and almost all rosewood tree species. CITES meets every three years to discuss how to best regulate trade in plants and animals to ensure the survival of more than 35,000 species. There are 177 governments that are Parties to CITES, representing their countries’ civil society, businesses, non-governmental organizations and groups speaking for indigenous peoples.
The oceanic whitetip, porbeagle, and scalloped, great and smooth hammerhead sharks, manta rays, and rosewood and ebony trees from S.E. Asia, Central America, Brazil and Madagascar, all of which are severely threatened but highly commercially valuable – have now been listed in CITES’s Appendix II, which does not ban their trade, but offers a greater level of protection and regulation of their international trade through supervision and accountability.
Along with these decisions on sharks and timber, the CITES parties adopted measures that aim to contribute towards better trade management and conservation for elephants, rhinos, turtles, Asian big cats and crocodiles.
“CITES is our most important international agreement in protecting a wide range of species against the illegal wildlife trade, which is comparable to the drug trade in global proportions and negative impact” said Dr. Russell Mittermeier, President of Conservation International. “When one considers the current long term damage occurring to biodiversity and the ecosystems upon which we all depend, such impact probably exceeds that of other illegal global activities. Listing these commercially valuable species is a major success showing that nations are beginning to understand that further loss of such critically important natural capital represents a threat to all of us.”
The illegal wildlife trade is a worldwide black market which is estimated to be a multi-billion dollar business. It also is a catalyst for other criminal activities that pose significant to risk to species, livelihoods and national security around the world.
Sharks and rays
“This was perhaps the biggest step forward for international manta ray and shark conservation in the past decade,” said Dr. Gregory Stone, chief scientist for oceans and executive vice president at Conservation International. “Five shark species including Oceanaic whitetip, Scalloped hammerhead, Great hammerhead, Smooth hammerhead and Porbeagle were finally included in CITES Appendix II. This inclusion sets an important precedent for CITES as it marks the first time that any species affected by industrial fishing on the high seas has been put on a CITES list. This is a transformative decision.”
Ocean health depends on healthy populations of sharks, which ensure the health and stability of populations of fish further down the food chain. They are also an important ecotourism draw in countries are varied as South Africa, Ecuador and Indonesia. In spite of these benefits, overfishing has led to drastic declines in shark numbers.
“Rosewood trading in Madagascar and across South East Asia, has led to a crisis of illegal logging in these areas in the past decade,” Mittermeier said. “It has been a major issue for Madagascar since the coup that took place there in March of 2009. This listing is a positive step to reduce this destruction of these threatened slow growing hardwoods.”
Three species of North American turtle species were afforded safeguards from exploitation for international trade for the first time by their inclusion in Appendix II, so were 23 Asian species of freshwater turtles. Twenty more turtle species, whose trade was already regulated by their Appendix II listing, were brought under stricter controls by either imposing a zero quota for wild-collected animals or by placing them in Appendix I, which allows no commercial trade at all in its species.
A report from the CITES Monitoring of Illegal Killing of Elephant (MIKE) Program presented at this COP16 showed over 17,000 African elephants were poached for their ivory in 2011, and the initial figure from 2012 was even worse.
Meanwhile, 60% loss of the African forest elephant population was confirmed by a CI co-funded research paper published in PLOSONE this month.
Therefore, CITES parties and scientists urge involved consumer countries to strengthen the control and management of domestic ivory market and take measures to reduce the demands.
Source: Conservation International