The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora about to be reborn as the WTO (World Trade Organization)

25 Mar 2010

The 15th conference of the parties of CITES has just ended in Doha. The porbeagle shark was put back on the table following the intervention of Singapore, which believed that there had been technical problems with the first vote. The debates were evaded by a procedural trick and the proposal passed directly to vote. The proposal was rejected by three votes. Iceland, candidate to join the European Union, and Japan, which will host the Conference for Biodiversity next October, in showing the best intentions in the world, warmly hugged each other in the middle of the conference room to congratulate themselves on this failure of Europe and the protectors of sharks.

Associations such as the Japan Fisheries Association quickly left to celebrate the result of intense lobbying. Installed to protect endangered species of wild fauna and flora from the excesses of international trade, CITES has progressively become a convention of the protection of trade. The delegate from Guinea summarized yesterday in plenary an analysis of a lot of the participants: “My comment is very bitter; I notice after having carefully listened to the debates that economic considerations dominate the environmental vision.” Decisions on marine species confirmed that the sea is considered by the international community as a reservoir for food, healing and decoration, but when it is time to protect it, it’s almost deserted, just like around Doha.

In the sea

Bluefin tuna will not be listed in CITES this year, though it has great need of it. The losing strategy of the European Union and the unwillingness of the Spanish presidency will have to be digested. France announced a desire to work on its listing in Appendix 2, much too late for this session, but just in time to convince the member countries of ICCAT of the utility of having the two conventions work together during the next meeting, which will be held in Paris in November. Three crucial years are coming up for the bluefin tuna, before the next CITES which will be held in Thailand in 2013. A good piece of news- the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) has affirmed that the respective roles of ICCAT and CITES should not be seen as being in competition and that the two organizations would both gain from effective cooperation.

Sharks. The hammerhead shark, the oceanic shark, the dogfish shark and the porbeagle shark will continue to be mutilated for sharkfin soup or end up as “fish and chips” without control of international trade. The proposals were the occasion for the Asian countries to repeat that the marine species of strong commercial importance should not be controlled by CITES.

Corals. They are the symbol of the limits of joint diplomacy of the United States and the 27 member countries of the European Community. The communal proposal to list red and pink coral in Appendix 2 failed, with only 3 more votes than at the preceding conference 3 years ago.

The polar bear, classified as a marine mammal, was the victim of a clash between the United States, proposing its transfer from Appendix 2 to Appendix 1, and Europe which, along with Canada, refused to support it.

On land

Rosewood, or pau rosa, made its entrance into Appendix 2 by consensus thanks to Brazil. This is good news for the long term exploitation of the Amazonian forest and it is an old battle won for Robin des Bois. This is bad news for the sellers of oil adulterated by mixing it with synthetic oil because systems of identification of pure oil will be studied to help customs officers enact their controls. The sellers of rosewood oil (Pau rosa) in organic tradeshows will be able to produce their CITES permit in 90 days.

Elephants: Despite the new voting conducted today in plenary following the request of Zambia and Tanzania, there will not be a delisting of elephant populations from Appendix 1 to Appendix 2. The spirit of the agreement made in The Hague in 2007 will be respected, without the support of the European Union, though a mediator at the time, it preferred to abstain. The 23 African member countries of the Coalition for the African elephant defended themselves and notably recalled that the true benefit for Africa was the survival of the species on the whole continent.

Plants of Madagascar: Madagascar issued an emergency appeal in the form of 14 proposals concerning the endemic plants that are the targets of international trade, in order to control the trade. 9 of these proposals were accepted after the formation of a working group, and Madagascar promised to return in the next session with more detailed information on the five remaining species.

Dynastes satanas are the first scarabs to make their entry into Appendix 2 of CITES.

Kaiser’s spotted newt was listed in Appendix 2 by consensus on the proposal of Iran.

The Mariana mallard after having disappeared on land, has disappeared from the CITES appendices. Maybe one day a new couple will be observed; miracles sometimes happen with species that scientists consider extinct.

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