Press releases

Monday 17 Jun 2002

New CITES trade rules proposed for wild plants and animals

Toothfish, mahogany, whales,
elephants, vicuña, and turtles at issue

Nairobi, 17 June 2002 - The Secretariat of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) has announced today the receipt from member governments of 54 proposals to amend the lists of species subject to trade controls or prohibitions.

"Some of the important issues raised by this year's proposals include what role CITES should play regarding commercially valuable fish and timber species and the kinds of incentives that local communities will need to continue protecting the wildlife that surrounds them," said Willem Wijnstekers, the Convention's Secretary-General.

"CITES' efforts to reduce threats to individual wild species are vital to the broader goal of making environmental conservation and poverty reduction mutually supportive," said Klaus Töpfer, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme, which administers the CITES Secretariat.

The CITES lists, or Appendices, are revised every two-and-a-half years. Appendix I prohibits all commercial trade in some 900 species that are threatened with extinction. Appendix II regulates trade in 4,000 animal and 22,000-plus plant species through a system of permits. The deadline for submitting the new proposals was 6 June, and the Secretariat will issue its comments on these proposals in July. The Convention's 158 Parties will then meet in Santiago, Chile from 3 to 15 November to decide whether to accept, reject or modify the proposals.

Of particular interest will be the debate over the proposed listing in Appendix II of two species of toothfish, or Chilean sea bass. The toothfish proposals raise the issue of CITES's role regarding valuable and heavily traded fish stocks and its relationship to regional fisheries agreements, the Food and Agriculture Organization and other international regimes. Other species proposed for inclusion on Appendix II include bigleaf mahogany, seahorses and 26 species of freshwater turtles.

A high-profile item for the Santiago conference will be the African elephant. After an eight-year ban on ivory sales, three African countries - Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe - were allowed to make one-time sales from their existing legal raw ivory stocks in 1997. They made proposals for annual quotas in 2000 but then withdrew them. The debate over elephants has focused on the benefits that income from ivory sales may bring to local communities and conservation programmes versus concerns that such sales may inspire increased poaching.

This year, the three countries plus South Africa are proposing a one-off sale of existing ivory stocks followed later by annual quotas. The proposals are for a first sale of 20,000 kg and an annual quota of 4,000 kg for Botswana, 10,000 kg and 2,000 kg respectively for Namibia, 30,000 and 2,000 for South Africa and 10,000 and 5,000 for Zimbabwe. Zambia too is now proposing a one-off sale of 17,000 kg. India and Kenya, on the other hand, are proposing that all African elephant populations be returned to Appendix I.

A number of other proposals involve transferring species from Appendix I to Appendix II in order to permit trade. Cuba would like to sell 7,800 kg of hawksbill turtle shells from existing legal stockpiles. Japan is seeking the transfer of most northern hemisphere populations of minke whale and a Pacific population of Bryde's whale; its proposals stress the use of national legislation and DNA identification of individual whales to monitor catches and trade. Argentina, Bolivia and Chile want to expand their ability to sell the fine silky wool sheared from live vicuña to include a number of additional vicuña populations.

Note to journalists: For further information please contact Michael Williams at +41-22-917-8242 /8196 /8244 or michael.williams@unep.ch. The proposals are being posted at www.cites.org.


UNEP News Release 2002/49

A CITES backgrounder

Thousands of species are endangered as a result of human activities such as habitat destruction, hunting, and pollution. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) was adopted in 1973 in order to address the threat posed by just one of these activities: international trade. To date, 158 countries have become Parties to the treaty, making it one of the world's most important agreements on species conservation and sustainable use.

Even after commercial fishing is set aside, the international trade in wildlife is big business, estimated to be worth billions of dollars annually and to involve more than 350 million plant and animal specimens every year. Unregulated international trade can pose a major challenge to the survival of threatened and endangered species, especially when combined with habitat loss and other stresses. CITES accords varying degrees of protection to more than 30,000 plant and animal species depending on their biological status and the impact that international trade may have upon them.

The CITES appendices

CITES bans international commercial trade in an agreed list of plant and animal species that are threatened with extinction and where trade is a contributing factor. This list, known as Appendix I of the Convention, includes, for example, all the great apes; various big cats such as cheetahs, snow leopards and the tiger; numerous birds of prey, cranes, and pheasants; all sea turtles; many species of crocodiles, tortoises and snakes; and some cacti and orchids.

The Convention promotes the sustainable use of other threatened species by regulating their trade through a system of permits. These species are listed in Appendix II and include, for example, all those primates, cats, cetaceans, birds of prey, parrots, crocodiles and orchids not listed in Appendix I.

Appendix III includes species subject to regulation within a particular member country and for which the co-operation of other member countries is needed to control international trade. As an example, many bird species have been included in this appendix by Ghana, Malaysia and several other countries.

Governments must adopt the necessary national legislation to officially designate a Management Authority to issue permits for trade in species listed under CITES. Member countries must also designate a Scientific Authority to provide scientific advice on imports and exports. The national authorities must also assist in enforcing CITES. This is done in close cooperation with Customs, Police, or similar agencies.

As the impact of trade on a population or a species increases or decreases, the plant or animal can be added to the CITES appendices, removed from them, or shifted from one appendix to another. These decisions are to be based on the best biological information available and an analysis of how different types of protection can affect specific populations.

It is worth noting that when a species is transferred from Appendix I to Appendix II, the protection for this species has not necessarily been "downgraded". Rather, it is a sign of success because that species' numbers have grown to the point where trade may be possible. In addition, by allowing a species to be commercially traded at sustainable levels, Appendix II status can actually improve protection by giving local people a greater stake in the species' survival. It can also attract greater international financial and practical support from the international community for improving national enforcement and conservation measures.

Monday 17 Jun 2002
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