CITES 2013, © Defenders of Wildlife

Success at CITES CoP 16

Alejandra Goyenechea, International Counsel

It’s with great joy that we wrapped up this year’s Convention on Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) Conference of the Parties. It proved to be an historic meeting, especially for the conservation of the marine species we’ve been focusing on for so many years. We worked hard to disseminate information and advocate for these species to be included in CITES Appendices that regulate or prohibit their trade — and all our work paid off!

oceanic whitetip shark

An oceanic whitetip shark, one of five shark species we supported at CITES this year (©Peter Koelbl)

We are thrilled to report that the listing proposals of several species of sharks that we were supporting were approved, including oceanic whitetips (despite opposition from delegates representing Japan, Gambia and India, among others), and three species of hammerhead sharks (despite opposition from delegates representing Grenada and China, among others). At the end of the conference, at least two-thirds of the delegates voted in favor of including those species under the protection of CITES. Porbeagle sharks and two species of manta rays were also approved. The amount of support for these proposals was so overwhelming that the opponents did not even get an opportunity to reopen the debate later in the conference.

This was the first time since 2004 that the trade of commercially valuable shark species has been regulated. While an Appendix II listing does not entirely ban the trade of these species, it puts new regulations in place that require permits for exporting the fins and other parts of these animals, giving officials the data on the numbers being traded and an account of the specific species traded. Listing them in CITES will help shut down illegal trade in these species and give these vulnerable sharks an opportunity to begin recovering their numbers from the impact of the fin trade.

This meeting will also be remembered because of the unprecedented number of endangered and threatened tropical trees that were listed by consensus in Appendix II: 125 species of rosewood, ebony and sandalwood from Southeast Asia, Africa and Central America were added under CITES. These historic votes meant that finally, the countries of the world, exporters and importers, recognized that the international trade of precious tropical woods needed immediate regulation to put a stop to overexploitation and illegal harvesting before it is too late to save these species.

spotted turtle

Spotted turtle (c)John J. Mosesso/NBII

We are also delighted that delegates adopted other proposals we worked on, such as the decision to list the Ecuadorean Machalilla’s frog (Epipedobates machalilla). Many other species gained placement on the CITES Appendices this year as well, including three U.S. species of turtles: Blanding’s turtle, the spotted turtle and the diamondback terrapin, all of which have been declining due to overexploitation. A proposal to uplist to Appendix I and therefore ban the international commercial trade of the West African manatee was approved by consensus, thanks to the wide support of many countries. New Zealand’s green geckos – a species declining because collectors find the animal’s color so appealing – was also listed, as were several species of snakes. In a proposal from Australia, freshwater sawfish were also protected by a new listing that bans the international trade of the species unless for scientific research purposes or under other extenuating circumstances.

Much of the meeting’s success came from the collaboration between Latin American countries, some African nations (mainly from the West), the United States and Europe. It was rewarding to see so many nations recognize the importance of basing their decisions for these proposals on sound science, and to watch them respond to the excessive international trade that is taking a great toll on many species and cannot be allowed to continue unchecked. Now comes the next step for Juan Carlos, our colleague in Mexico, and myself: assisting with training and capacity building in Latin American Parties to CITES to help implement of these decisions and allow the listings to be not only historic, but also truly successful.

4 Responses to “Success at CITES CoP 16”

  1. Robert Uttaro

    Congratulations on these initiatives. But any news on the slaughter of elephants and the illegal ivory trade? How are you going to sanction countries like China that is not enforcing the ban on the sale of ivory? I believe a big problem here is that countries like China can say they are supporting the ban but not doing anything to stop the illegal importation of ivory, actually encouraging criminal and terrorist organizations to do the poaching. When the slaughter of elephants stops and Chinese restaurants stop selling shark fin soup, I’m not sure you can honestly say that CITES was a success.

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  2. Lucky Beckett

    What a bright spot in a bleak battle. Defenders of Wildlife is more than just an NGO. The diligence of its staff and solid dedication to the wildlife and especially the predators is inspiring. Word from CITES is heartening: to finally see such consensus on certain commercial species which belies perhaps finally a deeper understanding by world leaders of the major crisis facing this planet. Kudos to all and many thanks.

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  3. Margaret Wright

    Fantastic news for all the species mentioned, and great that there will be more focus on horrendous shark finning, just for a bowl of soup! As a New Zealander, it is fantasic that our beautiful Green Geckos will be protected from theft by certain visitors and tourists. What about the Ivory and Rhino Horn trade? Surely these should be at the top of Cites’ list, considering how many thousands of elephants and rhinos are being slaughtered for their ivory and horns! The stock piles of ivory should be burnt as they used to be, and export to the East must be stopped. Rhino horn is made of keratin, just like our finger nails and hair, there is no possible medicinal use for it, yet this abominable trade is allowed to continue by corrupt governments and officials, just for financial gain. Elephant species around the world are being destroyed, just for a few trinkets! Come on Cites, lets really get the poachers and traders punished!

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