Diplomats and environmental officials are departing The Hague after adopting over 100 formal decisions that strengthen or fine-tune the regulations governing the international wildlife trade.
A Ministerial debate on Wednesday, 13 June, enabled several dozen Ministers to explore how the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) can best contribute to the broader biodiversity and sustainable development agenda.
It also gave Ministers from the African elephant range states an opportunity to hammer out a ground-breaking compromise agreement on future ivory sales.
New and emerging issues on the conference agenda included the need to protect the livelihoods of poor communities dependent on wildlife trade and the growth in wildlife trade via the Internet. The conference adopted a strategic vision for the years 2008 to 2013 reflecting these and other concerns.
Extensive discussions on marine species led to the inclusion in CITES of the European eel, which is a popular food in many countries. The eel joins a growing list of high-value fish and other marine species whose trade is managed through the CITES permit system to ensure that stocks are not depleted. This trend reflects growing concern about the accelerating decline of the world's oceans and fisheries.
A new timber species has also been added to CITES. The trade in Brazilwood will now require CITES permits, although exports of bows for musical instruments are exempted.
In addition, trade will now be forbidden for the slow loris, a small nocturnal primate native to South and Southeast Asia; the Guatemalan beaded lizard; the slender-horned gazelle and Cuvier's gazelle of northern Africa; and sawfishes, whose rostral saws and other body parts are valued as curios and in traditional medicine.
By contrast, the success of strong CITES protection over many years for the black caiman of Brazil has allowed the species' population to recover to an estimated 16 million. The conference there decided that carefully managed international trade could resume as a way of providing benefits to the local people who live with these dangerous animals.
"Humanity's appetite for wild plants and animals and for wildlife products will clearly expand over the coming decades. We need to think creatively about how to manage the wildlife trade if we are to meet human needs while conserving vulnerable species. Finding the right balance will require a healthy respect for science, market dynamics and the needs of people who rely on wildlife for their livelihoods," said CITES Secretary-General Willem Wijnstekers.
In addition to revising the rules for specific species, the conference reviewed the progress being made by conservation programmes for the tiger, the leopard, the Saiga antelope, the black rhinoceros, the Hawksbill turtle, bigleaf mahogany, sturgeons, sharks and many other CITES-listed species.
Capacity building, enforcement, national legislation, the financial resources needed for implementing CITES, and other priorities and activities vital to the effectiveness of the CITES wildlife trade regime were also debated.
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