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Trade in live dolphins

The trade in live dolphins continues to attract considerable attention and much negative comment from NGOs, the general public and a number of Parties to CITES. The CITES Secretariat is currently receiving many requests to intervene to stop such trade.

I have previously made statements on this subject, on 30 July 2003 and 5 March 2004. These statements can be accessed in the Archives section of the CITES website at:

My earlier comments regarding the provisions of the Convention remain valid, but I should like to make the following additional observations today.

Many of the people and organizations who have contacted the Secretariat, to express their concerns regarding the trade in live dolphins, have referred to the fact that no export can be allowed without a non-detriment finding. This is indeed a basic principle of CITES, which is to ensure that the export of specimens of a species will not be detrimental to the survival of wild populations.

The Conference of the Parties to CITES has noted that there are various ways in which a non-detriment finding can be made and it agreed, at its 14th meeting, in June this year, that this subject should be studied further. For the moment, however, it has not recommended any particular method for the making of a non-detriment finding. It is a matter for each State to satisfy itself that any exports will not negatively impact upon wild populations and to decide how best to reach such a decision.

In relation to trade in live dolphins, the Secretariat has not been presented with any evidence which demonstrates that non-detriment findings are not being ade-quately made before exports are authorized. Similarly, it has received no evidence to demonstrate that trade which is now taking place, or is intended to take place, will have a detrimental impact upon wild dolphin populations. There is therefore, at present, no justification for the CITES Secretariat to take steps to halt the trade. If the Secretariat receives any information to show that there is such a justification, we will certainly act.

Willem Wijnstekers

Secretary-General of CITES
15 October 2007