For Immediate Release:

25 Mar 2010

Is CITES Up to the Challenge?

Treaty Finds Rough Waters in Protecting Commercially Valuable Marine Species

(Doha)—The 15th Meeting of the Conference of the CITES Parties ended today with the defeat of a last-ditch effort by Tanzania and Zambia to weaken international protection for their elephant populations – a move that would have represented a significant step toward resumption of international ivory trade. However, progress toward protecting sharks, including the threatened porbeagle, also failed, placing another commercially valuable fisheries species at significant risk.

“The CITES Meeting had high points and low points as it always does,” stated SSN President Will Travers. “But the real question for me, after the disappointing results for marine species including sharks, Bluefin tuna, and coral, is whether CITES is strong enough to regulate their trade in the face of significant lobbying pressure from consuming nations such as Japan.”

SSN, which works on all proposals before the CITES Meeting, however, applauded the Parties foresight in providing much-needed international regulation for spinytail iguanas, an endemic Iranian newt, an endemic Bolivian beetle, five species of tree frog, and two South American tree species. “CITES Parties have shown they can provide protection to species in need time and time again,” Travers continued. “Now it’s time to face powerful fishing lobbies head-on and put conservation first.”

Controversial conservation issues dominated the discussion straight through the closing gavel of the Meeting.

Elephants. Initially defeated in Committee, both Zambia and Tanzania brought the elephant issue back in plenary in a last-minute effort to overturn their earlier defeats. The Parties soundly rejected the proposals from Tanzania (55 in support; 55 opposed; 34 abstentions) and Zambia (59 in support; 47 opposed; 38 abstentions). A two-thirds majority of votes must be cast in favor of the proposal for a nation to prevail.

The majority of opposing interventions mentioned concerns of rising poaching of elephants, large-scale levels of illegal ivory trade and inadequate trade controls in the two countries. It also was noted that the majority of African elephant range States oppose additional downlistings and are firm in their opposition to legalized ivory trade.

Marine species. Despite being accepted earlier in the week in Committee, debate on a joint Palau-European Union proposal to list the porbeagle shark in Appendix II was reopened and defeated (84 in support; 46 opposed, 10 abstentions) on the last day as was a proposal to list hammerhead sharks in Appendix II (76 in support, 53 opposed, 14 abstentions).

Many Parties and a wide-range of non-governmental organizations expressed concern that such scientifically sound proposals were rejected and CITES action stymied by political views and opposition to requiring sustainable management of marine species, particularly at a time when more and more marine species are being overharvested for trade.

The meeting closed with the acceptance of Thailand as the host of the CITES CoP16 in 2013.