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Wildlife experts meet in Geneva to discuss the future of the queen conch,
turtles, seahorses and other animals
Geneva, 15 August 2003 – Eminent scientists representing all the regions of the world, as well as leading scientific institutions and specialized NGOs are meeting in Geneva from 18 to 21 August for the 19th meeting of the Animals Committee of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
The Committee will consider how best to regulate global trade in a wide range of animals, including the queen conch, Asian turtles, seahorses, the Tibetan antelope and sharks. These species are traded as food products, traditional medicines, tourist souvenirs or pets in the local and international markets.
The queen conch, a large Caribbean mollusc, is one of the most important fishery resources in that region, as its meat is in great demand. The wholesale value of the annual landings has been estimated at USD 60 million. The shells are also used and traded as curios and tourist souvenirs, but are largely considered a by-product of the meat trade.
The Committee will also consider the status of Asian turtles, which are traded in significant numbers for regional food markets, Asian traditional medicines and international pet markets. There is extensive evidence of illegal trade, but turtles are also harvested for subsistence consumption and bred in captivity in large numbers, making trade controls difficult. Habitat loss is another major threat to their survival.
The trade in seahorses will also now become regulated under CITES. Seahorse populations seem to have declined in recent years owing to commercial trade, by-catch in fisheries, coastal development, destructive fishing practices and pollution. To meet the growing demand for traditional medicines, aquarium specimens, souvenirs and curios, at least 20 million seahorses are estimated to be captured annually.
A number of species in Madagascar – one of the world’s richest ecosystems – will receive close scientific scrutiny, particularly the flat-tailed tortoise, various chameleons, and a burrowing frog.
The Committee will also look at shark species and discuss the collaboration between CITES and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) for the management of these species, which are heavily hunted for their meat and fins. In this respect, it is worth noting that the trade in two giants species of sharks, the whale shark and the basking shark, has recently become regulated under CITES.
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