PANAMA CITY (AP) — An international wildlife conference has moved to enact some of the most important protections for shark species targeted in the fin trade and the dozens of turtles, lizards and frogs whose numbers are being decimated by the pet trade.
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, known by its acronym CITES, ended Friday in Panama. Along with protecting more than 500 species, delegates to the UN wildlife conference rejected a proposal to reopen the ivory trade. An ivory ban was enacted in 1989.
“The good news of CITES is good news for wildlife because this treaty is one of the pillars of international conservation, imperative to ensure that countries come together to fight the interrelated global crises of the collapse biodiversity, climate change and pandemics,” said Susan Lieberman, Vice President. chair of international policy at the Wildlife Conservation Society.
“Many of the proposals adopted here reflect ongoing overexploitation and unsustainable trade, as well as escalating illegal trade, and some are due to complex interactions of other threats reducing species populations in the wild, including the climate change, disease, infrastructure development and habitat loss,” she added.
The International Wildlife Trade Treaty, which was adopted 49 years ago in Washington, DC, has been hailed for helping to stem the illegal and unsustainable trade in rhinoceros ivory and horn as well as whales and sea turtles.
But it has been criticized for its limitations, including its reliance on cash-strapped developing countries to tackle the illegal trade that has become a lucrative $10 billion-a-year business.
One of the biggest accomplishments this year was increasing or protecting over 90 species of sharks, including 54 species of requiem sharks, the bonnethead shark, three species of hammerhead sharks and 37 species of guitarfish. had never had trade protection before and now under Appendix II the trade will be regulated.
Global shark populations are declining, with annual fishing deaths reaching around 100 million. Sharks are primarily sought after for their fins, which are used in shark fin soup, a popular delicacy in China and elsewhere in Asia.
“These species are threatened by the unsustainable and unregulated fisheries that fuel the international trade in their meat and fins, which has led to significant population declines,” said Rebecca Regnery, senior director of wildlife at the Humane Society International, in a statement. “With Appendix II, CITES Parties can only allow trade if it does not harm the survival of the species in the wild, giving these species the help they need to recover from the overexploitation.
The conference also enacted protections for dozens of species of turtles, lizards and frogs, including glass frogs whose translucent skin has made them a favorite in the pet trade. Several species of songbirds have also been granted commercial protection.
“Already under immense ecological pressure resulting from habitat loss, climate change and disease, the unmanaged and growing trade in glass frogs exacerbates already existing threats to the species,” said Danielle Kessler, Director American International Fund for Animal Welfare. “This trade must be regulated and limited to sustainable levels to avoid compounding the multiple threats they already face.”
But some of the more controversial proposals have not been approved.
Some African countries and conservation groups had hoped to ban the trade in hippos. But the European Union, some African countries and several conservation groups have opposed it, which argues that many countries have healthy hippo populations and that trade is not a factor in their decline.
“Globally beloved mammals such as rhinos, hippos, elephants and leopards did not receive increased protections at this meeting as a group of wondrous crackpots scored conservation victories,” he said. Tanya Sanerib, international legal director at the Center for Biological Diversity, in a statement. . “In the midst of a heartbreaking extinction crisis, we need a global agreement to fight for all species, even when it’s controversial.”
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