Five Caribbean countries renew commitment to enacting effective CITES legislation

Following a request from several Caribbean countries at the 16th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES (CoP16, Bangkok, 2013), the Secretariat undertook a series of back-to-back legislative assistance missions to Dominica, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Grenada and Trinidad and Tobago from 10 to 21 June 2013. The Secretariat is grateful for the logistical and substantive support provided by CITES officials in each country.

This visit to the Caribbean region gave the Secretariat an opportunity to discuss with CITES authorities some of the key outcomes of CoP16, such as the listing of commercially valuable shark and manta ray species in Appendix II of the Convention. It was decided at CoP16 that the entry into effect of these listings would be delayed until 14 September 2014, in order to afford Parties the time to put necessary implementation measures in place.

Under the CITES National Legislation Project, the legislation of the five countries was previously analyzed and found insufficient to fulfill the requirements which CITES Parties have agreed are needed for effective implementation of the Convention. The missions were aimed at reviving previous legislative work which led to the adoption of enabling legislation (but not implementing regulations) in Saint Lucia and the development of draft legislation (but not enactment) in the other four countries. In this connection, discussions were held with: relevant Permanent or Parliamentary Secretaries in each country; representatives of the CITES Management and Scientific Authorities (e.g. wildlife, forestry, fisheries, environment); authorities responsible for parks and protected areas, agriculture and land management; the ministry of legal affairs or Attorney General’s Office; enforcement authorities (e.g. Customs, police, the Coast Guard and maritime administration); and representatives of academia, local hunting associations, the chamber of commerce and conservation NGOs.

There was also an opportunity to meet with domestic legal consultants, to participate in a national workshop for reviewing and revising a National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan and to undertake several field visits.

During the missions, emphasis was placed on (1) the urgent need to enact legislation for effective implementation of the Convention, (2) the potential for court challenges if the regulation of CITES trade is not based on proper legal authority and (3) the potential for a Standing Committee (SC) recommendation to suspend commercial trade if States which have been party to the Convention for 20 years or more do not enact legislation by SC66 (June/July 2015). Each of the five above-mentioned Parties renewed its commitment to enacting enabling legislation and/or subsidiary regulations for effective implementation of the Convention before SC66.

The missions will be followed by formal letters from the Secretary-General to high-level officials later this month summarizing the conclusions that were reached and the action points that were identified. Subject to the availability of resources, the Secretariat will respond to any additional requests for technical or financial assistance which might be submitted by the relevant countries in relation to legislation, electronic permitting, capacity building for enforcement authorities or other implementation needs.

With regard to the shark and manta ray listings mentioned above, Brazil offered at CoP16 to host a workshop on the listings later this year for the Latin American and Caribbean region. The Secretary-General discussed the planned workshop with Brazilian authorities during his visit to Brazil in May 2013. During a subsequent visit to the European Commission in June 2013, the Secretary-General met with officials to discuss the 1.2 million Euros pledged by the EC to assist with implementation of the shark and manta ray listings. Additional information on the Brazilian workshop and the EC funds will be made available in the near future.