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March 27, 2010

CITES 2010: Summary of Results

Humane Society International

From March 13-25, 2010, the 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (CoP15) to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) took place in Doha, Qatar, resulting in conservation gains or losses for various species under consideration. The next meeting of CITES will take place in Thailand in 2013.

Successes

There were a number of significant conservation gains at the Doha meeting, particularly in the fight against the international pet trade. These include:

  • Elephants—The decisions taken at this CoP are a huge victory for elephant conservation. This CoP is the first since 1997 when a population of the African elephant hasn't been downlisted, or a one-off sale of ivory has been approved. While this is maintenance of the status quo from the last CoP in 2007, it is one that is much welcomed as it is clear that threats to elephants have in no way diminished.
  • Bobcats—A U.S. proposal to delist the bobcat was rejected. This was the fourth time the proposal was considered by a CITES CoP, and again it was rejected due to concerns raised by range states of the critically endangered Iberian lynx and Eurasian lynx, who raised concerns that delisting would facilitate illegal trade in these species. HSI is extremely pleased at the outcome of this result.
  • Asian big cats—The agreement reached at CITES between EU, China and India could see countries treating illegal trade in tiger parts as seriously as arms and drug trafficking. But these words must be turned into action. The UK-brokered deal should see increased intelligence sharing against the criminal networks behind the trade, and will build on recent training provided by INTERPOL.

    • CITES parties also agreed to develop a database to monitor the illegal trade in tiger, leopard and snow leopard parts. Securing the involvement of the professional enforcement community is essential to protecting Asia's big cats, who are poached for their skins, bones and body parts.
    • In addition, countries supported an existing decision to ensure that tiger farms did not supply the illegal market for big cat products.
    • Newt—The listing of the critically endangered Kaiser's Newt from Iran in Appendix I is a significant victory. This proposal was accepted by consensus on the floor of the meeting. Given the significant threats posed to this species by international pet trade, we hope that the CITES listing will help to address the problem of illegal collection for this trade.
    • Tree frogs—The tree frogs of Agalychnis species are exploited for the international pet trade. At this meeting, it was proposed that five species of these tree frogs be included in Appendix II, in order to regulate this trade. This proposal was also adopted at the meeting by consensus, another great win for conservation.
    • Madagascar plants—There were a total of 12 proposals to consider Madagascan succulent plants in Appendix II of CITES. Following detailed consideration by a Working Group, five of the proposals were withdrawn and seven adopted by consensus along with the draft Decision. Given the lack of information available on these plants, this was another good result for conservation.
    • Satanic beetle—Approval was given for the listing of a rare and bizarre insect, the Satanic beetle (Dynastes satanas) on Appendix II. Prized by collectors, the Satanic beetle has been a target for trappers in its tiny natural range in central Bolivia. Bolivia, which introduced the proposal, hopes that the listing will benefit local people as well as helping to preserve the species. This is the first time that CITES Parties have voted a beetle onto the Appendices. Many beetles, like this one, fetch high prices on the international market, and many believe that it is time that CITES took a closer look at this trade.
    • Iguanas—The Guatemalan spiny-tailed iguana (Ctenosaura palearis) and other three species of iguanas native to central and south-eastern Mexico, the Yucatan Peninsula and Central America were added to Appendix II by consensus. All of these iguanas are highly sought by private collectors, so this is another great result for conservation.

    Failures

    It seemed like many of the decisions made at this CITES meeting were the result of Japan and China's influencing a number of countries about the way in which they should vote. Many continue to have an in-principle disagreement with listing commercial marine species under CITES, stating that instead they should be managed nationally or by Regional Fishery Management Organisations (RFMOs). It is HSI's opinion that these options are not mutually exclusive. Listing on CITES would not replace management by RFMOs or other national bodies but instead would be complementary. Some of the notable proposals that failed at CoP15 include:

    • Atlantic bluefin tuna—The most high-profile proposal under consideration at CoP15, this species has suffered a marked decline in the size of its wild population due to overexploitation. Listing on Appendix I of CITES was therefore sought at this meeting to ban international trade to allow time for the stock to recover. This proposal was rejected at the meeting following organized and sustained opposition from Japan and its allies.
    • Sharks—Four proposals to list eight shark species were considered at this meeting. These included the scalloped hammerhead shark (with the great hammerhead and smooth hammerhead as "lookalike" species), the oceanic whitetip shark, the porbeagle shark and the spiny dogfish. All species were being considered for listing under Appendix II of CITES in order to regulate the international trade in the meat and fins of the species. Votes that took place on these species were extremely close. The scalloped hammerhead shark was voted on twice at the meeting and twice rejected. The porbeagle shark was accepted following a first vote; however, after being reopened in plenary, the proposal was rejected. This was a sad result for conservation and demonstrated the consideration of commercial interests over conservation and science.
    • Polar bear—While it is recognised that habitat loss due to climate change remains a great threat to polar bears, at this meeting the US sought to have the polar bear listed under Appendix I of CITES. This would have resulted in a ban on international trade. Currently, approximately 300 bears per year are killed to supply the international trade market. Given that there are an estimated 20,000-25,000 polar bears remaining in the wild, and due to the other threats facing the species, we were hopeful that listing on CITES Appendix I would help to alleviate the threats facing the polar bear. Unfortunately, opposition from Canada meant that the proposal was rejected. Work will continue to address the threats this hunting poses.
    • Corals—Corals from the family Coralliidae were proposed for listing under Appendix II to regulate the international trade following international demand, which has contributed to serial depletions of most known populations of these pink and red corals. Despite the fact that there exist no international trade control or management measures, this proposal was again rejected by the Parties, a victim of general strong opposition against marine proposals at this meeting.
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