PANAMA CITY (AP) — An international wildlife conference has moved to establish some of the most important conservation measures for shark species targeted by the fin trade and 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 the initials CITES, ended Friday in Panama. In a record for the conference, delegates conducted protections for more than 500 species. The United Nations Nature Conference also rejected a proposal to reopen the ivory trade. An ivory ban was introduced in 1989.
“Parties to CITES are fully aware of their responsibility to address the crisis of biodiversity loss by taking action to ensure that international wildlife trade is sustainable, legal and traceable,” Secretary-General said. Ivonne Higuero in a statement.
“Trade supports human well-being, but we need to restore our relationship with nature,” she said. “The decisions that emerge from this meeting serve the interests of conservation and wildlife trade, which do not threaten the survival of plant and animal species in the wild, for future generations.”
The international wildlife trade treatypassed 49 years ago in Washington, DC, has been praised for helping to curb the illegal and unsustainable trade in ivory and rhino horns, whales and sea turtles.
But it has come under fire for its limitations, including its reliance on poor developing countries to fight illegal trade that has become a lucrative $10 billion a year business.
One of this year’s biggest achievements was to increase or protect more than 90 shark species, including 54 species of requiem shark, the bonnet shark, three species of hammerhead sharks and 37 species of guitarfish. Many had never had trade protection and now, under Annex II, commercial trade is regulated.
Global shark populations are declining, with the annual death toll from fishing reaching about 100 million. The sharks are especially 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 fishing that supplies the international trade for their meat and fins, which has led to extensive population declines,” said Rebecca Regnery, senior director for wildlife at Humane Society International, in a statement. “Appendix II allows CITES parties to allow trade only if it is not detrimental to the survival of the species in the wild, and gives these species the help they need to recover from overexploitation.”
The conference also introduced protections for dozens of species of turtles, lizards and 160 species of amphibians including glass frogs whose translucent skin made them a favorite in the pet trade. Several species of songbirds also received trade protection, as well as 150 tree species.
“The unmanaged and growing trade in glass frogs is already under tremendous environmental pressure from habitat loss, climate change and disease, exacerbating pre-existing threats to the species,” said Danielle Kessler, the US country director of the International Fund for Animal Welfare, said in a statement. “This trade needs to be regulated and limited to sustainable levels to avoid exacerbating the many threats they already face.”
But some of the more controversial proposals were not approved.
Some African countries and conservation organizations had hoped to ban the hippopotamus trade. But the European Union, some African countries and various conservation groups opposed it, claiming that many countries have healthy hippopotamus populations and that trade is not a factor in their decline.
“Globally cherished mammals such as rhinoceroses, hippos, elephants and leopards were not given increased protection at this meeting, while a bunch of wonderful madmen achieved conservation victories,” Tanya Sanerib, international legal director for the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement. . “In the midst of a heartbreaking extinction crisis, we need global agreement to fight for all species, even if it’s contentious.”