February 18, 2010
News About CITES 2010
The fate of many of the world's threatened species, including elephants, tigers, sharks and tree frogs, hinges on decisions that will be made at an international meeting on wildlife trade in March 2010.
Millions of wild plants and animals are traded internationally each year. This multi-billion dollar trade is too often illegal, unsustainable, and inhumane. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), with 175 member countries (or "Parties"), attempts to regulate the international trade of many species.
The 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (CoP15) will be held on March 13-25, 2010 in Doha, Qatar. Delegates from the member countries will consider more than 40 proposals to increase or decrease protection for wild animals and plants, along with important procedural issues.
The purpose of CITES is to protect species from overexploitation from international trade. The level of protection is determined by which of three Appendices species are listed on. An Appendix I listing means that Parties agree to ban international commercial trade in the species and its parts and products; an Appendix II listing means that Parties agree to regulate trade to prevent overexploitation; and an Appendix III listing means that Parties record and report trade levels.
Species proposal highlights
Polar bears:The U.S. has proposed to upgrade the polar bear from CITES Appendix II to Appendix I. In addition to the threat of global warming, which is destroying their habitat and making it harder for them to find food, hundreds of polar bears are killed each year for the international commercial trade in their parts to make products such as polar bear skin rugs. Moving them to Appendix I will improve protection for them. View our two print ads ( 1, 2 ) [PDF] asking European leaders to support the U.S. proposal.
Elephants:African elephants, who are killed for trade in their ivory tusks, have been the center of heated debate at CITES since the 1970s. On one side of the debate are countries in southern Africa, where most African elephants live, whose governments want to trade in ivory. On the other side are countries in eastern, central and western Africa, which have smaller elephant populations and which are losing their elephant populations to poaching and illegal ivory trade. At the last CITES meeting in 2007, African countries agreed to a compromise: Four southern African countries were allowed to sell their government-owned ivory stockpiles to Japan and China, agreeing in exchange not to ask for further permission to sell ivory for nine years. Unfortunately, this compromise did not apply to all African countries and now Tanzania and Zambia are proposing to transfer their elephant populations from CITES Appendix I to Appendix II and asking to be permitted to sell their stockpiled ivory. Meanwhile, a group of six African countries—Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Mali, Sierra Leone and the Republic of Congo—have proposed a new deal: no ivory trade proposals for 20 years from any African country. HSI believes that the only way to stop elephant poaching is to ban trade in ivory.
Sharks:Proposals to establish CITES protection for eight species of sharks—more than have ever been considered before—are on the table for CITES CoP15. The European Union and Palau have proposed adding porbeagle and spiny dogfish sharks to CITES Appendix II; proposals for these species came close to being adopted at the last CITES CoP. The U.S. and Palau have proposed adding oceanic whitetip, three types of hammerhead, dusky and sandbar sharks to Appendix II. Sharks of these species are victims of shark finning, a cruel and wasteful practice to supply fins for shark fin soup. Listing them on a CITES Appendix will help shield them from overfishing.
Tree frogs:Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico have proposed adding a genus of Central American tree frogs to CITES Appendix II. These are the cute little green frogs with the red eyes that are often seen in travel brochures. Their good looks are their downfall, as they are also frequently caught for the international pet trade, resulting all too often in their untimely and inhumane death.
Bluefin tuna:Monaco has proposed listing this species of tuna on CITES Appendix I, as populations are being rapidly depleted to satisfy the demand for this favorite of sushi consumers. Efforts to manage stocks regionally have failed repeatedly, leaving these fish in dire straits. CITES protection could be the species' best and last chance for survival. Guatemalan spinytail iguana: Guatemala proposed adding this reptile to CITES Appendix II to regulate its export for the international pet trade. These animals are also commonly hunted locally for food.
Red and pink corals:The U.S. is making another attempt at listing corals on CITES Appendix II in order to regulate the international trade in these animals for use in jewelry. This time, the European Union is co-sponsoring the proposal, which greatly increases its chance for success.
Tigers:The European Union is proposing to increase protection for tigers. With fewer than 4,000 tigers left, these critically endangered animals, who are already listed on CITES Appendix I, need all the help they can get. The main threats to the survival of tigers include poaching and illegal trade in tiger parts and products for use in traditional Asian medicine. The European Union proposal will put pressure on countries to stop "farming" tigers and step up enforcement of laws.
Bobcats:For the fourth time, the U.S. has submitted a proposal to eliminate CITES protection for bobcats, who are caught in painful leghold traps for international trade in their fur. Bobcats, although not threatened with extinction, are the most highly traded cat species and their fur looks identical to that of an endangered European lynx species. Besides welfare concerns over the inhumane use of leghold traps, international trade in bobcat fur needs to be regulated under CITES to ensure that fur of the endangered European lynx species does not enter trade through confusion or deception. Read more
What you can do
Between now and March, it is crucial that people contact their government to express concern for these species and to urge votes in favor of maintaining or increasing their protection. The European Union, for example, takes a common position on each of the proposals and votes as a block. If they cannot agree, all 27 countries may abstain. Every other country has a single vote, though sometimes regions such as Latin America will decide to vote together. Proposals to add or delete a species from a CITES Appendix require a three-quarters majority vote in order to be adopted. The adoption of a CITES proposal to increase or decrease protection can affect millions of individual animals. What is decided in 2010 will remain in place at least until the next meeting, likely in 2013.
Read factsheets with more information on the various species and proposals.