Cites-CITES conference responds to extinction crisis by strengthening international trade regime for wildlife
Geneva, 28 August 2019 – The triennial World Wildlife Conference, known formally as CoP18 of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), concludes here today after adopting an impressive list of decisions advancing the conservation and sustainable use of wildlife across the globe.
The Conference revised the trade rules for dozens of wildlife species that are threatened by unstainable trade linked to overharvesting, overfishing or overhunting. These ranged from commercially valuable fish and trees to charismatic mammals such as giraffes to amphibians and reptiles sold as exotic pets.
Continuing the trend of using CITES trade quotas and permits to promote sustainable commercial fisheries, the conference decided to add 18 more shark species to Appendix II. They included blacknose and sharpnose guitarfishes, which are highly valued for their fins and considered endangered by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Shortfin and longfin mako sharks, together with white-spotted and other species of wedgefishes, were also listed in Appendix II.
Other marine species addressed by the conference included eels, teatfish (sea cucumber), queen conch, marine turtles, precious corals, sturgeons and seahorses. Governments furthermore agreed to examine the trade in live ornamental marine fish to assess what role CITES could or should play in regulating this trade.
Tropical timber trees comprise another wildlife market of high commercial value. Responding to high and increasing demand for African teak from western Africa, CITES broadened the need for trade permits to include plywood and other forms. Malawi’s national tree, the rare Mulanje cedar, and the slow-growing mukula tree (a type of rosewood) of southern and eastern Africa, were also added to Appendix II. All Latin American species of cedar were listed in Appendix II.
The conference amended an earlier Appendix II listing of rosewoods and related tree species to ensure that small finished items, including musical instruments, parts and accessories, could be carried across borders without the need for CITES permits.
Noting that giraffes have declined by 36-40% over the past three decades due to habitat loss and other pressures, the conference added the world’s tallest animal to Appendix II. Asia’s smooth-coated and small-clawed otters, threatened by habit loss and possibly by trade in live animals, were transferred from Appendix II to Appendix I, which prohibits all commercial trade in the species that it lists.
Because the growing exotic pet trade has put enormous pressure on many species of turtle, lizard and gecko, CITES added a range of these species to the Appendices.
The Parties established the CITES Big Cat Task Force with a mandate to improve enforcement, tackle illegal trade and promote collaboration on conserving tigers, lions, cheetahs, jaguars and leopards.
Recognizing a CITES success story – the revival of vicuña populations through sustainable use in Bolivia, Peru and parts of Argentina – the conference downlisted a regional vicuña population in Argentina from Appendix I to Appendix II. The American crocodile population of Mexico, another conservation success, was similarly downlisted in recognition of the population’s continued recovery.
Many countries and their CITES Management Authorities lack the necessary financial and institutional capacity to sustainably manage and conserve their wildlife. The conference took decisions promoting capacity building and other activities aimed at strengthening wildlife management and compliance with and enforcement of CITES trade rules.