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March 14, 2013

Report from CoP16: Close of the Conference

Humane Society International

  • HSI's Iris Ho, Rebecca Regnery and Alexia Wellbelove celebrating the finalized decisions for sharks and rays. HSI

As we entered the great hall for the final day of the CITES CoP in Bangkok, we encountered a cardboard cutout of a hammerhead shark. We were feeling anxious because the session the night before had stopped just before the important interim decisions on sharks could be agreed upon. The big question was whether they would be reversed or upheld, and rumours had abounded about wheeling and dealing between parties.

After awhile, order was called and the Thai minister chairing the plenary took us swiftly into the shark decisions.

Focus on shark species

The Chair of Committee One stated that Proposal 42, to add the oceanic whitetip shark to CITES Appendix II, had passed by a 2/3 majority vote in her committee a few days prior.  

Then the Japanese delegate was given the floor. He said that he had new elements to introduce and requested that the proposal be re-opened and a secret ballot used. He was supported by Gambia and India, while Colombia and Senegal opposed.

After more debate, a vote was taken. Buttons were pushed and a green time-bar crossed the screen to identify the voting period. The result was then shown on the screen: 44 votes for re-opening, 93 against and four abstentions. The 1/3 required for reopening was not achieved. There was cheering and applause as the oceanic whitetip shark was successfully listed on Appendix II of the Convention: a huge success!

There was muted celebration among the HSI team and our shark allies. We could not relax just yet because next came the final decision on hammerhead sharks. In the end, those who wished to re-open the issue once again failed to get 1/3 of the vote (40 supported, 96 opposed and six abstained). The hammerheads joined the oceanic whitetip on Appendix II!

Next was the porbeagle shark. Would there be another effort to overturn the decision to list the species on Appendix II? The Chair announced it: After many years and four CoPs where attempts were made to include this species on the Convention, it had finally been listed on Appendix II.

All other marine species proposals approved in Committee One passed the plenary without comment and hence were all confirmed, including the manta rays and the freshwater sawfish. In more good news, it was agreed that conservation actions would be taken to offer protection for the freshwater ray species, which Committee One denied Appendix II protection.

After lunch, we attended the closing ceremony, during which South Africa offered to host the next CoP.

Much progress, many thanks

We are grateful to all of our friends and colleagues, for this has been an exceptional CoP, with some great achievements.

With the shark and ray species being listed on Appendix II and the final acceptance of the rules for Introduction from the Sea, marine species are now firmly a feature of the mandate of CITES.

With one exception, every proposal to provide new or increased protection for wildlife was adopted. The Parties agreed to new or increased protection from international trade for dozens of species including the African manatee, nine species of green geckos from New Zealand, the Mangshan pit viper of China, more than 40 species of freshwater turtle and tortoise, the oceanic whitetip shark, the scalloped hammerhead shark, the great hammerhead shark, the smooth hammerhead shark, the porbeagle shark, the freshwater sawfish, and two species of manta rays. On its 40th anniversary, CITES has demonstrated that it remains relevant and indeed vital to ensuring that species are not detrimentally affected by international trade.

Warm thanks to all our supporters who have been sending their good wishes to the HSI/HSUS team in Bangkok and for all your support for our work to protect animals worldwide.

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