WWF and TRAFFIC: Marine Species Get a Raw Deal at CITES Wildlife Convention

For Immediate Release

World Wildlife Fund and TRAFFIC
Contact: 

Lee Poston
lee.poston@wwfus.org
(202) 495-4536

WWF and TRAFFIC: Marine Species Get a Raw Deal at CITES Wildlife Convention

Atlantic Bluefin Tuna, Corals and Sharks Lose Out, Further Endangering Populations

WASHINGTON - World Wildlife Fund and TRAFFIC called on nations to focus on
science instead of politics as marine species emerged the big losers
from a United Nations conference on endangered species trade that ended
today. Proposals to better protect marine species such as the Atlantic
bluefin tuna, corals and several shark species were repeatedly rejected
at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild
Fauna and Flora (CITES),
which meets once every three years.

"It is shameful that science
lost out to politics on marine species at CITES," said Mark
Stevens
, senior program officer for Fisheries at WWF-US. "CITES
governments have to set aside political considerations and follow
scientific evidence. If they don't, the implications for conservation,
sustainable use of marine species and coastal livelihoods are
worrisome."

Despite the failure of high-profile marine species
including corals, sharks, and in particular the critically endangered
Atlantic bluefin tuna, governments did make progress toward implementing
better protection for rhinos, tigers and Humphead Wrasse.

Of the
marine species, Porbeagle shark was the only proposal initially
accepted, but it was overturned today, during the final day of the
meeting.

Stevens said the Doha meeting may someday be seen as a
turning point for the recovery of Atlantic bluefin tuna populations.

"We
hope to turn the disappointing results of this CITES meeting into an
opportunity," Stevens said. "We're seeing a new pro-conservation
attitude in the run-up to the next meeting of the International
Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) in November in
Paris. Fishing nations started to talk-the-talk at CITES, the ball is
now in their court and regional fisheries management organizations like
ICCAT must now muster the political courage for what they have been too
timid to do for years - put in place scientifically sound recovery plans
for this spectacular predator."

Stevens added that this must
include a temporary suspension of fishing for Atlantic bluefin tuna to
give the species a chance to recover and provide the political courage
to follow the science. 

"The United States must lead the charge,
as it did in Doha, by making conservation a priority at ICCAT and resist
the temptation to focus on fights over quota allocation," Stevens said.
He added that he was encouraged by a statement ICCAT chair Dr Fabio
Hazin made at the end of the CITES meeting that said, "Setting
management measures not in line with scientific advice is no longer an
option. (...) The commitment to recover bluefin tuna stocks in the
Atlantic must be strengthened at ICCAT's forthcoming meeting in Paris in
November." Japan also intervened at the end of the CITES meeting,
committing to lead a global effort to ensure the recovery of Atlantic
bluefin tuna.

In other issues, red and pink corals - species that
are heavily exploited for the jewelry trade, but greatly overharvested
in many parts of their range failed to gain greater protections for the
second CITES meeting in a row.

Separately, requests by two
countries - Tanzania and Zambia - to relax trade restrictions on their
elephant populations and allow a one-time sell-off of government-owned
ivory stockpiles were both voted down at the meeting.

"African
nations now seem further away from a consensus on how to deal with the
ivory issue than at any time since 1989," said Steven Broad, Executive
Director TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network of WWF and the
International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

There were a
couple of bright spots this year related to tigers and rhinos, which are
facing a global poaching crisis. Tiger range countries, including
China, reached a strong consensus in Qatar on how to address pressing
concerns of illegal trade that threaten wild populations of tiger and
other Asian big cat species.

CITES governments maintained their
position against farming of tigers for trade in parts and derivatives.

In
addition, countries with rhino populations agreed to focus on
increasing law enforcement and training of guards, strengthening border
controls, improving rhino population monitoring, creating awareness
raising campaigns in consumer countries such as Vietnam, and rooting out
organized crime syndicates that are behind the increase in poaching and
illegal trade.

CITES governments agreed to increase financial
resources for tackling enforcement. Also, the recently-formed
International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime (ICCWC) committed
to engage on a number of joint activities to bring wildlife criminals to
justice. ICCWC is made up of the CITES Secretariat, INTERPOL, the
United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the World Bank and the World
Customs Organization,

"CITES trade rules can only deliver
conservation and economic benefits if they are enforced properly and all
too often this is simply not the case" Broad said. "The new commitments
to CITES compliance and wildlife trade law enforcement announced at
this conference are crucial steps in the right direction."

###

WWF is the world's leading conservation organization, working in 100 countries for nearly half a century. With the support of almost 5 million members worldwide, WWF is dedicated to delivering science-based solutions to preserve the diversity and abundance of life on Earth, halt the degradation of the environment and combat climate change. Visit www.worldwildlife.org to learn more.   

TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, works to ensure that trade in wild plants and animals is not a threat to the conservation of nature. TRAFFIC is a joint program of IUCN and WWF. Visit www.traffic.org to learn more.

Share This Article

More in: