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.

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