Europe Would Regulate Trade in Great White Sharks
BRUSSELS, Belgium, August 3, 2004 (ENS) - The great white shark is one of three species that the European Union proposes to shield from international trade at the upcoming meeting of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). The Convention protects around 33,000 animals and plants against over-exploitation through international trade and ensures that such trade is sustainable.
The Commission Friday adopted a proposal to tighten the international rules for trading in rare species such as the great white shark, best known from the film "Jaws," whose jaws and teeth are prized as souvenirs.
Great whites are found throughout temperate ocean waters, preferring regions where seals are abundant. This shark's only predators are humans, who kill it mainly for trophy sport, for food, and out of fear.
WWF, the conservation organization, says no one knows how many great white sharks exist. "We cannot make even an educated guess," the organization says.
If CITES adopts the great white shark proposal, in the future permits would have to be issued and non-detriment findings made for trade in the species.
In addition, the European Commission proposes to extend CITES protection to the Napoleon wrasse, so named for the hump over its head that resembles the historic French leader's "bicorne" hat. This large Pacific and Indian Ocean fish is desired by aquariums for their public exhibits, and is considered a delicacy in Asian restaurants.
The ramin, a rainforest hardwood tree, is the third species on the European Commission's CITES wish list. There are currently no common international rules protecting the ramin, which mainly grows in Indonesian Borneo and Sumatra in forests inhabited by endangered orangutans.
The European Union is the biggest importer of this hardwood, which is used primarily for picture frames. The Commission is concerned about illegal logging of this species and supports Indonesia’s proposal for better regulation of international trade to prevent this.
The proposals will be discussed at the CITES conference taking place October 2 to 14 in Bangkok, Thailand. The outcome of the conference will later be reflected in European Union law.
European Environment Commissioner Margot Wallstrom said, “Unregulated international trade in rare species constitutes a major threat to the survival of wild animals and plants. In Bangkok we will have to face up to the need for better regulation of trade in sensitive species. But we also have to encourage countries that are successful in conserving their native species.”
At the CITES meeting, some countries will want to ease controls for species such as the minke whale, the African elephant, and the American bald eagle.
The European Commission will not support easing of international trading in minke whales as it supports the International Whaling Commission 18 year moratorium on commercial whaling.
As for the proposals for trade in elephant ivory from several African countries, the European Commission supports the current 14 year old ban on commercial ivory trade. At the same time, the Commission recognizes that some southern African countries have been very successful in protecting their elephant populations. "The need to prevent any ivory from entering the market generates stockpiles that impose a big security burden on these countries," the Commission said.
However, because poaching and illegal ivory trade are still widespread in several African countries, the Commission said it cannot agree to a resumption of commercial ivory trade "unless it is clear that this will not lead to increased poaching."
The European Commission has come out in support of easing the international trade rules for the American bald eagle. Currently all international trade in this eagle is banned.
The conservation of its national bird has been a major success story for the United States and its neighbors, said the Commission, agreeing with the United States that "there is now scope for easing the very tight controls on trade so that enforcement efforts can be directed to other species of greater concern."
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