By Laurel Neme
Part 1 of 3
When countries meet in Bangkok, Thailand for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) 16th Conference of Parties (CoP16), to be held from March 3-14, they’ll consider 70 proposals submitted by 55 States regarding a range of species, from polar bears to turtles and tropical timbers.
To help sort through the many agenda items, CITES Secretary-General John Scanlon provided the following overview of the most significant issues.
According to Scanlon, of particular note are proposals from range states to list high-value timber species, including several rosewood species. These requests represent a considerable shift from several years ago, when these same range states resisted including commercially valuable timber under CITES. Now, the international community is turning to CITES as a reliable and useful instrument for regulating international trade in commercially valuable timber.
Whether that will also happen for commercially valuable marine species is anyone’s guess. At CoP16, parties will consider proposals to list several species of sharks and rays. Similar proposals were rejected at the last Conference of Parties (held in Doha in 2010). At that time, economics appeared to overtake science as the basis for decision-making regarding marine species. Notably, the rejection of the shark proposals sparked controversy over both the use of secret ballots and how CITES should manage commercially valuable marine species. Both issues will likely be intensely debate at CITES CoP16.
Also generating diverging opinions is the question of whether the polar bear should be uplisted from Appendix II to Appendix I. A similar proposal was rejected at CoP15 in 2010. While the situation has changed since then – this proposal has support from more range states and there is more data available – it remains contentious. The debate appears to center around the anticipated declines of polar bear populations being caused primarily by habitat loss from climate warming, with international trade exacerbating that trend rather than being its main driver.
The following edited interview with CITES Secretary-General John Scanlon was transcribed by Kirstin Fagan. To listen to it in its entirety, please visit laurelneme.com/wildliferadio. For more on CITES and the upcoming meeting, see: www.cites.org. More....