of the media only;
not an official document.
CITES proposals on wildlife
trade address over-fishing, illegal logging
and recovery of large charismatic
June 2004, Geneva – The publication here today of a preliminary
review assessing proposals for amending international wildlife
trade rules marks the start of a debate on the conservation and
sustainable use of wild plants and animals that will conclude with
important regulatory decisions at a major conference in Bangkok,
Thailand from 2 to 14 October.
“Although its roots go back to the 1960s, CITES clearly
remains at the centre of the global debate over wildlife conservation,”
said Executive Director Klaus Toepfer of the United Nations Environment
Programme, which administers the CITES secretariat. “Many
of the new proposals also confirm that CITES can effectively contribute
to sustainable development and poverty alleviation,” he added.
The 50 government proposals
reveal some of the key trends and issues. The closely-watched issue
of commercially valuable fish is being shaped this year by proposals
by Australia and Madagascar on the one hand, and by Fiji, the European
Union and the United States on the other hand to add the great white
shark and the humphead wrasse, respectively, to the CITES trade
regime. If accepted, these proposals would require that in future
permits be issued and non-detriment findings made for trade in these
humphead wrasse is a large reef fish from the Indian and Pacific
oceans that is highly prized by fishermen. The great white shark
is perhaps best known as the star of the “Jaws” film.
It is a rare and slowly maturing carnivore at the top of the ocean
food chain and is sometimes caught by recreational fishermen. A
major step towards using the CITES trade rules for protecting commercially
valuable shark species was taken in 2002 when the whale shark –
the world’s largest fish – and the basking shark were
both included in Appendix II.
Another industrial sector where CITES rules have more frequently
been introduced is trade in high-value timber and tree products.
Shipments of Latin America’s big leaf mahogany have required
CITES export permits since last November. Now Indonesia is proposing
tighter controls for trade in ramin, which is one of Southeast Asia’s
major export timbers, and agarwood trees, which contain the valuable
“agar” oil widely used for making incense, perfumes
“The continued interest in how CITES could contribute to
the conservation and management of high-value fish and trees reflects
growing concerns about the declining health of the world’s
oceans and forests,” said CITES Secretary-General Willem Wijnstekers.
A recurring theme on the CITES agenda is the continued overexploitation
of medicinal plants. Of the four related proposals, for example,
one by the United States and China addresses Asian Taxus species
(yew trees), whose leaves are used to produce paclitaxel, a key
ingredient for one of the world’s biggest-selling cancer drug.
Another group of animals that needs CITES attention is Asian turtles
and tortoises. Vast numbers of wild turtles are sold in food markets
in China and other fast-developing Asian nations. Some 30 species
are already covered by CITES; there are eight proposals to bring
trade of more Asian species under CITES controls.
Other proposals seek to ease the rules on trade in some of the
large, beautiful and exotic animals that have been icons of the
conservation movement since the 1960s and 1970s. The proponents
argue that some have now recovered sufficiently to permit some highly
The debates over whether or not to permit trade in the world’s
largest sea and land mammals have been staples of CITES conferences
for many years. International trade in ivory from the African elephant
was authorized under CITES until 1989. Healthy and well-managed
elephant populations in Southern Africa allowed CITES to agree to
one-off sales of stockpiled ivory in 1997 and again in 2002. The
2002 sales from Botswana, Namibia and South Africa have not yet
occurred pending the establishment of baseline data on poaching
Namibia has now submitted a proposal for an annual export quota
of two tonnes of ivory. Both Namibia and South Africa are proposing
to trade elephant leather goods commercially. A dialogue meeting
of the African elephant range States will be held immediately before
the Bangkok conference to seek a regional consensus on the way forward.
Commercial whaling has been prohibited under the International
Whaling Commission (IWC) since the mid-80s and cannot resume until
a management regime has been agreed upon. Japan is now proposing
that the ban on three populations of minke whale be relaxed to allow
international trade. Similar proposals by Japan and Norway in the
past have not been accepted, in part owing to the provision that
CITES must be consistent with the conservation measures agreed by
Other proposals for easing controls on CITES-listed species involve
the Cuban crocodile and the Nile crocodile. Zambia, for example,
is requesting an annual export quota, of up to 548 wild rather than
ranched specimens. Swaziland believes it is now safe to permit a
highly controlled trade in trophies and live specimens of the southern
Meanwhile, the United States would like to replace the current
trade ban on the American bald eagle with the permit system and
remove the bobcat completely from CITES.
The preliminary review by the CITES Secretariat focuses on whether
the proposals have sufficiently addressed the various listing criteria.
These criteria relate to trade (is the species being actively traded?
is trade really the problem rather than, say, habitat destruction?);
biology (what is the scientific evidence that populations are declining
or increasing?); and other technical matters (e.g. has the proponent
consulted thoroughly other range states?).
Later in the summer, once other Parties and interested bodies
have expressed their views on the proposals, the Secretariat will
publish a second assessment including recommendations on the proposals.
Note to journalists: For more information, contact Juan-Carlos
Vasquez at +41-22-917-8156 (office) or firstname.lastname@example.org, or
Michael Williams at +41-79-409-1528 (cell), +41-22-917-8242 (office),
or email@example.com. Click here to see the proposals.
Additional background information
CITES, whose Secretariat is administered by the United Nations
Environment Programme, provides three regulatory options in the
form of Appendices. Animals
and plants listed under Appendix I are excluded from international
commercial trade except in very special circumstances. They include
all the great apes; various big cats such as cheetahs, the snow
leopard and the tiger; numerous birds of prey, cranes, and pheasants;
all sea turtles; many species of crocodiles, tortoises and snakes;
and some cacti and orchids.
Commercial trade is permitted for species listed in Appendix II,
but it is strictly controlled on the basis of CITES permits. This
Appendix includes all those primates, cats, cetaceans, parrots,
crocodiles and orchids not listed in Appendix I.
Finally, Appendix III includes species that are protected within
the borders of a member country. An Appendix-III listing allows
a country to call on others to help it regulate trade in the listed
species. This Appendix also requires CITES documentation.
Thousands of species around the world are endangered as a result
of human activities such as habitat destruction, poaching, over-harvesting,
and pollution. CITES was adopted in 1973 to address the threat posed
by just one of these activities: unsustainable international trade.
To date, some 166 countries have become Parties to the treaty, making
it one of the world's most important agreements on species conservation
and non-detrimental use of wildlife.
Even after commercial fishing and the timber industry are set
aside, the international trade in wildlife is big business, estimated
to be worth billions of dollars annually and to involve more than
350 million plant and animal specimens every year. Unregulated international
trade can push threatened and endangered species over the brink,
especially when combined with habitat loss and other pressures.
CITES accords varying degrees of protection to some 30,000 plant
and animal species depending on their biological status and the
impact that international trade may have upon them. Appendix I contains
fewer than 600 animal species and a little more than 300 plant species,
whereas Appendix II covers over 4,100 animal species and 28,000
plant species – seven times as many animal species and ninety
times more plant species. Appendix III, which includes species that
are protected within the borders of a member country, lists over
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