Thursday, 25 March 2010

My Summary of CITES

They say a picture paints 1000 words...

CITES reverses porbeagle decision.

Honestly I feel too damned angry and frustrated to write anything right now. What the hell is wrong with these people? It's probably better if you read a nice professional summary from the New York Times.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

CITES. Lip service or successful green monitor?

There has been terrific bad news drifting out of CITES over the last weeks, and one wonders if the small victories won were offered up as cynical "feelgood" bait for the media and conservation lobbyists present at the event.

Despite determined efforts to persuade delegates to vote in favour of further protection for sharks, pink and red corals and the mighty bluefin tuna, all of the tough and determined lobbyist's efforts proved futile as only one shark species, the porbeagle, was adopted to appendix II and attempts to bring ivory back into legal trading circles were rightly deafeated.

The porbeagle shark is the only victory to come out of CITES. How did it succeed where all of the other shark species failed? Maybe the porbeagle doesn't represent a threat to market forces in Asia. Its fisheries are primarily derived from the Atlantic and although their fins do find their way to the far east, they are under the jurisdiction of European governments, which so far have portrayed a decent amount of conservation savvy at CITES. Fisheries for the other species can be found all around the globe and are probably far more lucrative from a profit margin perspective as they are sourced from more poverty stricken nations than those of Europe. Sadly the lack of adoption for Oceanic White Tips to appendix II might be the final nail in the coffin for that species. Shown to be down to 99% of original stock levels, and dissapeared from many areas, their appearance in most fisheries now are as genuine bycatch, which is extrememly hard to legislate for. The next CITES meeting might be too late.

As with all debate, whether that is on a global scale, or locally, there are lessons to be learned and encouragements to be understood from CITES. Much of Europe and the developed world made sensible votes for marine species, and us conservationists, as though we didn't already know, were revealed the true cynicism of the destructive behemoth that is Japan and China. All conservation efforts must now concentrate on these countries and the effect that these gigantic markets are having on our flora, fauna, ecosystems and marine environments. It is obvious that these sentimantally inert people have no regard for the natural world, and are only interested in consumerist gluttony. They are happy to destroy everything that the rest of us hold dear. We must be heard. They must be stopped.

Friday, 19 March 2010

Libya Filibusters Tuna's Chance at CITES

Humanity took a turn for the worst yesterday as political debate fuelled by scientific reasoning failed to make a show as Libya forced a vote on tuna proposals.
The Economist reports that a Libyan delegate exploded into a frothy rage in the middle of preliminary discussions, yelling that the move was a consiracy by developed nations to inhibit growth of developing nations, and that the science was flawed. He then demanded an immediate vote, hence forcing the meeting to a premature motion. The nation bringing the proposal to the table, Monaco, backed by interests within the united states and other nations were said to be 'dissapointed'.

Libya holds Africs'a largest amount of proven oil reserves, and GDP's in the mid 2000's show annual growth at over 8%. It does not sport the face of an international beggar very well at all, and likely the desert nation was plied with promises of international finance from a pro tuna nation to force that vote. It is said that this is how the real deals are made during CITES conventions. Japan hosted a meeting for delegates in their embassy the night before the debate and plied guests with top bluefin tuna sushi. Perhaps we should try this tactic in human related political decisions. Before meetings held to discuss human rights or other critical points of law we should hold a party the night before and eat the bodyparts of the underdog. A sure way to win the vote.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

CITES falls at the first shark hurdle

A proposal to bring openness to the shark fin trade and implement measures to curb illegal practices in the industry, failed to win the vote yesterday. Lesley Rochat, in Doha reporting for South African media reported that the votes were "52 in favour, 36 against and 11 abstentions". There needs to be a two thirds majority for a vote to succeed, so 14 votes short of a victory.

The most blindingly stupid statment in the whole proceeding was that China and Russia stated that shark populations were not in any danger of decline. How can it be possible that the country fast becoming the world's leading industrial and commercial powerhouse, can make such a bold and ignorant statement in the face of so much scientific data for the contrary?

However, there may be some light at the end of the tunnel for us looking into this from a doom and gloom perspective. There was some opposition to the proposal based on the detail that if the proposal was adopted, that the governments of the nations would be responsible for the controls implemented. This would prove too costly for poor nations, burdening them with expensive enforcement requirments (AP)and it has been argued from some that the responsibility and costs should be met by regional regulatory bodies, those involved in shark protection measures.

We could look at it by saying that this is not within the remit of CITES. It was not a proposal on listing for the appendices, and to incur extra costs to poorer nations outside of this remit might not be the best way to proceed. The overriding concern is that this is a precursor for the more important votes on addition to the appendices for certain species, and that those too will fail. Let's hope that this will not be the case, and the vote will swing in favour of protection on that more specific agenda.

Monday, 15 March 2010

CITES convenes in Doha and the world awaits...

Today the 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES opened in Doha, Qatar. This Oil and Gas rich desert peninsula, with a higher per capita carbon emmission rating than any other country, will be home to CITES nations delegates for the next two weeks. They will discuss the future of the world's most fragile and affected wildlife, and whether or not to implement trade restrictions relating to each proposed species.

CITES has long been criticised for failing to protect wildlife from trade, and rather than restricting commerce in certain species, may only serve to legitimise trade under its licensing system. The only safe place for a species to fall on a CITES list is appendix I, for which all international trade is banned. Appendix II listings are allowed to be traded, but under strict licensing controls. However, listing in appendix II does give incentive for host countries to implement strong pro-conservation initiatives for the species, and such a listing is considered critical for effective conservation management.

Eight species of shark are scheduled for discussion in Doha, the first time that such a significant number of shark species has been discussed by CITES. Currently only great whites, whale sharks and basking sharks populate appendix II but during this meeting, spiny dogfish, porbeagle, oceanic whitetip, scalloped hammerhead, great hammerhead, smooth hammerhead, dusky and sandbar sharks will recieve attention for discussion, debate, and hopefully eventual listing on appendix II.

The key species of this event however, has to be the Bluefin Tuna. The proposal for its listing in appendix I has received much media attention, and so it should. There is probably no greater icon for conservation requirement versus human appetite and desire than this majestic oceanic giant. It's latin name Thunnus thynnus conjures visions within us, of a creature of great stature and magnitude. But like all things spectacular, man has tried to harness it, and in so doing, has all but destroyed it. Said to be only worth $0.50 cents per kilo back in the seventies, the fine meat of the bluefin captured the imagination of asian chefs and now it is one of the most valuable fish in our oceans. A single tuna can command a price of hundreds of thousands of dollars. A war in the middle east in the next two weeks will be fought between those wishing to preserve this conservation icon, and those wishing to further their commercial interests and the subsequent imminent destruction of this king of the seas.

During the last years of the seventeenth century, mankind killed off the dodo. This giant flightless bird, populating a single island in the Indian Ocean, was not good to eat and probably didn't receive much attention from hunting practices of the day, however, introduced pigs and macaques were the liklely downfall of this waddling ground nesting bird. It went extinct because no-one really understoond the significance of extinction during that time. In fact, no-one really even noticed it had dissapeared, and it became a thing of myth, until discovery of their bones proved they really did exist. The same thing happened with the Great Auk, a large seabird, not dissimilar to a penguin, but inhabiting the North Atlantic, said to number in the millions, and populating Britain, Iceland, New Foundland and Canada. By 1840, a man named Henry Evans and a couple of friends caught and beat the last Great Auk on British Shores to death because they thought it to be a witch. So, we might comfort ourselves with the thought that superstition and ignorance were the real causes of extinction for the Auk, and for the Dodo too.

If the 175 CITES nations cannot agree to protect the bluefin tuna, then their failure will be down to only one thing. Greed. Today, with our abundance of science and news, we cannot side with ignorance. If we fail the bluefin, then can there really be any hope for the endangered species that might follow in years to come?

image source