CITES conservation crisis

Thursday, 25 March, 2010
Doha, Qatar
The 15th Conference of the Parties (CoP) of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) which ended today, has been disappointing in addressing the world’s rapidly disappearing biodiversity.

“Short -term profits rather than long-term conservation has once again been the theme of this meeting,” said Azzedine Downes, Head of IFAW’s CITES delegation.

“The biggest losers at this meeting include polar bears, bluefin tuna and all the sharks – with Parties refusing to acknowledge the science showing drastic declines in populations.  Urgent action to curb and control international trade is desperately needed for these species, yet CITES Parties collectively turned their backs.

Hammerhead sharks were re-introduced today at plenary but failed to get the support of the Parties, and the Porbeagle shark which was supported in Committee I, was also re-introduced and the decision overturned. The final vote result was 84 in support, 46 against and 10 abstentions so it did not get the two-thirds majority required.

“This is truly catastrophic for sharks,” said Peter Peuschel, IFAW Program Director. “Close to 100 million sharks are caught every year and some shark species may have declined by as much as 80 per cent in the past decade – yet Parties voted irresponsibly against any increased protection.”

“However, some species also held ground at the meeting, which leaves an element of hope for the future.”

Tigers retained the valuable protection measures they achieved at the last meeting, with range states uniting to stand behind a decision that countries should not breed tigers for the trade of their parts and derivatives.

While the nine year moratorium on ivory-trade was not extended to all African range states, two proposals submitted by Tanzania and Zambia for one-off ivory sales and down-listing of elephants to Appendix II allowing trade in hides and hair were rejected.

“Make no mistake this is a rare and important victory for elephants,” said Jason Bell-Leask, Director of IFAW Southern Africa. “We are hopeful that this result indicates that Parties understand that what elephants in Africa need is time. Time to effectively monitor the effect that the one-off ivory sales have had; time to put in place more effective measures to control poaching; and time for African nations to work collaboratively together to find solutions to protect elephants into the future.”

Stricter measures to control the illegal trade in wildlife over the Internet were also endorsed at this CITES meeting, moving one small step forward in managing what is a growing threat to endangered species.

“In 2010 rather than curtailing the loss of biodiversity we are accelerating it – speeding toward the elimination of species around the world. The real story here at CITES is not so much about the animals and plants but the back-room deals and short-term greed that is destroying the planet,” said Azzedine Downes.

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