CITES conference takes decisive action to halt decline of sharks and manta rays

55 proposals accepted, 9 rejected and 6 withdrawn. Strong enforcement measures to fight wildlife crime also adopted. Next meeting will be held in South Africa in 2016.

Bangkok, 14 March 2013 – The triennial World’s Wildlife Conference closed today with robust measures adopted to protect precious timber and marine species from over-exploitation. 

170 governments have turned to CITES to ensure the legal, sustainable and traceable trade in their precious timber and forest products, with the Conference unanimously bringing hundreds of new timber species under CITES controls, along with a number of tortoises and turtles and a wide range of other plant and animal species.  Five shark species and manta rays were also brought under CITES controls following a vote.

The members States declared the 3rd of March as the World Wildlife Day and accepted South Africa’s invitation to host the 17th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to be held in 2016.

The CITES Secretary-General, John E. Scanlon, said: “This is a big day for CITES and for the world’s wildlife.  It takes enormous effort to negotiate treaties and then make them work.  The international community has today decided to make best use of this pragmatic and effective agreement to help it along the path to sustainability in our oceans and forests". 

CITES Parties have heeded the call from Rio+20 and recognized the important role of CITES as an international agreement that stands at the intersection between trade, the environment and development.

"Unprecedented levels of international cooperation to combat serious wildlife crime have seen past differences set aside to stop the poaching of elephants and the rhinoceroses for their ivory and horn. These international commitments will now be translated into national action, with the CITES Standing Committee reviewing progress between now and the next meeting in 2016" said Scanlon.

The Asian and African Development Banks, the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the World Bank and the United Nations Development Programme have all attended this meeting in recognition of the need to scale up investment in the implementation of CITES. The CITES member States have decided to explore the possibility of making the GEF a financial instrument for the Convention.

The first global meeting of wildlife enforcement networks took place alongside the main meeting to scale up regional enforcement capacity and coordination to respond to the serious threat posed to wildlife by criminal networks. Several events of the International Consortium to Combat Wildlife Crime (ICCWC) brought together Government Ministers, the world's Wildlife Enforcement Networks, the Asian Development Bank, chief justices, attorney generals, senior police and Customs, and enforcement officers to discuss transboundary wildlife crime.

The member States also adopted historic provisions to refine the standards for making scientific findings; determine the State responsible for issuing documentation for marine species harvested in international waters; assess the impact of CITES decisions on the livelihoods of rural communities; and address potential conflict of interest that could significantly impair the impartiality, objectivity or independence of members of the CITES committees.
The Member States, observers and the CITES Secretariat thanked the extraordinary generosity of the Kingdom of Thailand and its people in hosting this meeting and recognized it as a contributor to the meeting’s success.

Sharks and manta rays



The meeting reached a climax today after an attempt to reopen the debate on these species in the closing Plenary was narrowly defeated. The Parties confirmed a decision made by one of the Conference’s Committees earlier in the week to include five commercially valuable shark species in Appendix II. The oceanic whitetip (Carcharhinus longimanus), scalloped hammerhead (Sphyrma lewini), great hammerhead shark (Sphyrna mokarran), smooth hammerhead shark (Sphyrna zigaena) and the porbeagle shark (Lamna nasus) are harvested in huge numbers for their valuable fins and, in some cases, meat. From now onwards, they will have to be traded with CITES permits and evidence will have to be provided that they are harvested sustainably and legally. These listings mark a milestone in the involvement of CITES in marine species.

In the Committee meeting, the oceanic whitetip shark (proposal 42) had been adopted by 92 votes in favour, 42 against and 8 abstentions after a secret ballot. Colombia introduced the proposal, supported immediately by co-proponents Brazil and the United States of America. Those against the listing argued that regional fisheries management organisations (RFMOs) were best placed to tackle the decline in shark stocks.

Brazil then submitted proposal 43 to list three species of hammerhead sharks. The scalloped hammerhead shark occurs widely in coastal warm temperate and tropical seas and is exploited extensively for its fins. The proponents highlighted the significant declines in the population of the species that have been reported in many areas, and it emphasized the importance of the outcomes of the Rio+20 summit last year for better protection of marine species. Two other species of hammerhead sharks (the great hammerhead and smooth hammerhead) have similar fins that are hard to distinguish in trade, and the proponents, recommended that these too be subject to CITES trade controls. The proposal was adopted by secret ballot with 91 votes in favour, 39 against and 9 abstentions.

After two unsuccessful attempts at previous CITES Conference meetings, the proposal to list the porbeagle shark (proposal 44) was also adopted by secret ballot with 93 votes in favour, 39 against and 8 abstentions. Ireland, on behalf of the European Union Member States and Croatia, presented the proposal and announced an implementation package of EUR 1.2 million to assist developing countries in the implementation of the listing of this and other marine species. The proponents welcomed the impressive alliance of countries co-sponsoring the proposal and argued that requiring CITES export permits will ensure that international markets are supplied by fish from sustainably managed fisheries that keep accurate records. This species has experienced severe population declines, notably in the northern Atlantic ocean and the Mediterranean, owing to unsustainable fishing for its high-value meat and fins.



Ecuador introduced proposal 46 for the inclusion of manta ray species in Appendix II. The proposal was adopted, again by secret ballot, with 96 votes in favour, 23 against and 7 abstentions. Manta rays are slow-growing, large-bodied migratory animals with small, highly fragmented populations. They have among the lowest reproductive rates of any marine animals, with females giving birth to only one pup every two to three years, making them extremely vulnerable to overexploitation. Most known populations are small in size, although there is an exceptional population of one species in the Maldives, estimated at 5,000 or more. Manta gill plates fetch high prices in international markets and have been traded in significant numbers in recent years.

Soure: http://www.cites.org/eng/news/pr/2013/20130314_cop16.php