WASHINGTON, DC—On June 3, 2007, more than a thousand delegates will convene in The Hague to determine the fate of scores of animal and plant species at risk of over-exploitation due to international trade. Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) will consider proposals affecting the global protection of African elephants, Asian big cats, great whales, North American bobcats, leopards, rhinos, sharks, coral, slow lorises, and a variety of plant and tree species.
“Widely considered to be the largest international conservation Treaty, CITES matters enormously. It is perhaps the single greatest global tool for conserving wildlife from the potentially damaging impacts of trade,” noted Will Travers, CEO of the UK-based Born Free Foundation and President of the Species Survival Network (SSN).
SSN is an international coalition of more than 80 organizations from more than 30 countries working to ensure strong implementation of CITES. A detailed examination of each proposal and working document for the forthcoming CITES meeting is available in English, French, Spanish, and Arabic.
Among the most contentious proposals to be considered are those related to the renewed trade in African elephant ivory. Botswana and Namibia have petitioned for the weakening of international trade controls, which many predict could prove disastrous for elephant populations worldwide. “Proposals to further relax the current prohibition on trade in elephant ivory are particularly indefensible when evidence strongly suggests that seizures of illegal ivory are at their highest level since the ban was first introduced 17 years ago,” Travers added. “Allowing any legal trade in ivory simply will add to the deadly pressure already experienced by many elephant populations across Africa and Asia. Are CITES Parties seriously willing to knowingly contribute to a slaughter reminiscent of the days when innumerable elephant carcasses unceremoniously littered the African savannah?”
Meanwhile, Kenya and Mali, supported by numerous other African elephant range states, propose the establishment of a 20-year moratorium on any further consideration of the renewal of elephant ivory trade. This proposal is strongly supported by SSN.
This year’s meeting promises to be substantially dominated by marine species issues. Japan has submitted a dangerous document proposing a process to circumvent international prohibitions on whaling and international commercial trade in whale products. CITES Parties will also consider increasing protection for sawfish, two species of sharks (porbeagle and spiny dogfish), red coral, cardinalfish and the Brazilian population of the spiny lobster.
“Overexploited species such as sawfish will benefit from an international prohibition on commercial trade,” Travers noted. Sawfish are targeted to supply international trade demand for rostral saws and teeth, fins, other body parts utilized in traditional medicines, and live animals for aquaria. The meat of the porbeagle and spiny dogfish is consumed in Europe (the latter under the misnomer “rock salmon” in British “fish and chips”), while their fins are exported to Asia for use in shark fin soup.
The eyes of the world will be focused on The Hague for two weeks starting Sunday 3rd June, monitoring the weighty deliberations undertaken by the CITES Parties. The future of some of the world’s most threatened species hangs in the balance, and millions of people across the globe can follow every twist and turn of these life and death negotiations via the daily SSN Blog during CITES CoP14.
For more information contact:
Adam Roberts, Press Officer, Tel: +1-202-337-3123 (GMT – 5 hours), E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org