(Doha)—The 15th Meeting of the
Conference of the CITES Parties ended today with the defeat of a
last-ditch effort by Tanzania and Zambia to weaken international
protection for their elephant populations – a move that would have
represented a significant step toward resumption of international ivory
trade. However, progress toward protecting sharks, including the
threatened porbeagle, also failed, placing another commercially
valuable fisheries species at significant risk.
“The CITES Meeting had high points and low points as it always does,”
stated SSN President Will Travers. “But the real question for me, after
the disappointing results for marine species including sharks, Bluefin
tuna, and coral, is whether CITES is strong enough to regulate their
trade in the face of significant lobbying pressure from consuming
nations such as Japan.”
SSN, which works on all proposals before the CITES Meeting, however,
applauded the Parties foresight in providing much-needed international
regulation for spinytail iguanas, an endemic Iranian newt, an endemic
Bolivian beetle, five species of tree frog, and two South American tree
species. “CITES Parties have shown they can provide protection to
species in need time and time again,” Travers continued. “Now it’s time
to face powerful fishing lobbies head-on and put conservation first.”
Controversial conservation issues dominated the discussion straight
through the closing gavel of the Meeting.
Elephants. Initially defeated
in Committee, both Zambia and Tanzania brought the elephant issue back
in plenary in a last-minute effort to overturn their earlier defeats.
The Parties soundly rejected the proposals from Tanzania (55 in
support; 55 opposed; 34 abstentions) and Zambia (59 in support; 47
opposed; 38 abstentions). A two-thirds majority of votes must be cast
in favor of the proposal for a nation to prevail.
The majority of opposing interventions mentioned concerns of rising
poaching of elephants, large-scale levels of illegal ivory trade and
inadequate trade controls in the two countries. It also was noted that
the majority of African elephant range States oppose additional
downlistings and are firm in their opposition to legalized ivory trade.
Marine species. Despite being accepted earlier in the week in
Committee, debate on a joint Palau-European Union proposal to list the
porbeagle shark in Appendix II was reopened and defeated (84 in
support; 46 opposed, 10 abstentions) on the last day as was a proposal
to list hammerhead sharks in Appendix II (76 in support, 53 opposed, 14
Many Parties and a wide-range of non-governmental
organizations expressed concern that such scientifically sound
proposals were rejected and CITES action stymied by political views and
opposition to requiring sustainable management of marine species,
particularly at a time when more and more marine species are being
overharvested for trade.
The meeting closed with the acceptance of
Thailand as the host of the CITES CoP16 in 2013.