Big wins for conservation at CITES

By World Wildlife Fund

This year’s meeting of the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES) has achieved significant results for conservation, with the adoption of better trade controls to protect African elephants, great white sharks and other threatened species.

With the listing of the humphead wrasse, a giant coral reef fish, and the great white shark on CITES Appendix II, these commercially exploited species have been granted a greater level of regulation and protection. Both species reproduce slowly and suffer from unsustainable fishing practices. WWF believes that better trade controls will prove crucial to avoiding further depletion of their populations. In particular, the humphead wrasse listing will assist developing countries in ensuring that the trade in this species is sustainable and benefits the livelihoods of local coastal communities.

CITES member countries also voted to prohibit commercial trade of the critically endangered Irrawaddy dolphin by including it on Appendix I, where it joins species like great apes and big cats, which are so endangered that no international commercial trade is allowed.

“Listing the Irrawaddy dolphin on CITES is a crucial step to saving the species,” said Karen Steuer, senior policy adviser to WWF. “The species is highly charismatic and easy to train, which has Asian water parks and dolphin shows clamoring to buy them. But Irrawaddy dolphins are so endangered, particularly by drowning in fishing gear, that any removal of the animals from the wild is a threat to the species.”

Minke whales remain on Appendix I, after CITES members defeated Japan’s proposals to downlist them to Appendix II and ease the way for the resumption of commercial whaling.

“The minke whale proposal was a disingenuous attempt by Japan to subvert the International Whaling Commission’s authority over commercial whaling by allowing trade in whale meat, which the other CITES members resoundingly rejected,” Steuer said.

“CITES is increasingly moving to regulate trade in species more commonly thought of as commodities than wildlife, such as commercially valuable fish and timber species,” Hemley said. “The overwhelming support given to these proposals is a positive indication that governments recognize the importance of sustainable trade and the resulting benefits to people and their livelihoods.”

Source: WWF, October 14, 2004