9,000 Acres Protected in Western Virginia

GENEVA, Switzerland, March 18, 2002 (ENS) - Trade suspensions have succeeded in prompting the United Arab Emirates, the Russian Federation, Fiji, and Vietnam to move towards more effective and sustainable management systems for a number of endangered species.

At the close of a four day meeting here, a Standing Committee of the Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) agreed Friday to lift or modify imposed trade measures in response to pledges by governments to reform their wildlife management and trade practices.

Responding to pledges of reform by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) government, the CITES Standing Committee has agreed to withdraw in three phases its earlier recommendation to suspend trade with the country.

First, trade for non-commercial purposes other than movements of live birds of prey will be permitted immediately.


Peregrine falcons like this one have been used in the UAE for centuries. (Photo courtesy Ian Cramman)
Second, the prohibition on cross-border movements of live falcons for non-commercial purposes will be withdrawn when a domestic registry of the birds and their owners is completed and confirmed by the Secretariat.

Third, commercial trade in CITES wildlife will remain suspended but will be reconsidered when the Standing Committee meets again next November and reviews the situation in the UAE.

"As this week has demonstrated, the CITES regime is effective because we can create powerful incentives for motivating governments to follow the rules and cooperate with one another," said Kenneth Stansell of the United States, chairman of the Standing Committee. "CITES is an invaluable instrument for promoting the conservation and sustainable management of wild plants and animals."

The effectiveness of trade restrictions in changing exploitive behavior was seen last week, when the CITES Secretariat approved new quotas for caviar and sturgeon meat exports from the Caspian Sea.

While recognizing that the five Caspian States had met the requirements for continuing the caviar trade by establishing the first unified system for surveying and managing sturgeon stocks, the Secretariat said illegal harvesting and unregulated domestic consumption still threaten the long term survival of Caspian Sea sturgeon species.

During the Standing Committee meeting, the Russian Federation responded to this concern and to a Secretariat report on enforcement needs by pledging to regulate all stages of caviar production, from harvesting to packing.

Russia promised to establish quotas for domestic markets, to require that all caviar containers used in the domestic market are made domestically in order to demonstrate legal origin, and to license all domestic sales of caviar.


Willem Wijnstekers, secretary-general of CITES (Photo courtesy ENB)
"These steps are vital to Russia's battle against dealers in illegal caviar. I welcome the Government's very positive response to our report's recommendations," said Willem Wijnstekers, secretary-general of CITES.

The Standing Committee considered the case of four other countries that had earlier been given a December 31, 2001 deadline for adopting national legislation on endangered wildlife trade. Any country failing to comply would be subject to a complete suspension of all CITES related trade.

Fiji, a major exporter of coral, missed the deadline and had its trade suspended. Last week, the Committee agreed to lift the suspension in response to Fiji's pledge to table national CITES legislation at its next parliamentary session in June 2002 and to have this legislation enacted before year's end. Fiji will also set trade quotas for coral species at 50 percent of last year's exports.

Fiji will also introduce a plan of action to address the unsustainable levels of coral harvesting and export. It will not authorize exports until the 2002 quota is formally put into effect, it will copy all export permits to the Secretariat, it will ensure that all export permits are issued only by the authorized national CITES Management Authority.


Diver explores Fiji's coral treasures. (Photo courtesy Turtle Island)
If Fiji fails to enact effective legislation by December 31, 2002, the Secretariat will notify all Parties to the treaty that CITES trade is once again suspended.

Vietnam, a wildlife rich country, saw all of its CITES trade suspended when it missed the end of December 2001 deadline for enacting legislation. However, the legislation was in force by mid-February 2002 and the trade suspension has now been lifted.

Turkey adopted adequate legislation and its trade was therefore not suspended; a key issue for Turkey is the transhipment of illegal caviar.

All CITES trade with Yemen, on the other hand, remains suspended until further notice. CITES will work closely with the government of Yemen to help it develop legislation and train enforcement officers.

The Standing Committee has decided to ensure more transparency in its procedures by permitting the participation in its deliberations of nongovernmental organizations.

The Standing Committee also discussed preparations for the upcoming Conference of the Parties to CITES, to be held in Santiago, Chile from November 3 to 15, 2002.

Many species of plants and animals have become endangered because of habitat destruction, pollution, unsustainable trade, and other forces. CITES was adopted in 1973 to ensure the long term survival of any species that are potentially threatened by international trade.

Its 157 member governments strictly regulate international trade in threatened wild animals or plants via an Appendix II listing and prohibit international commercial trade in species threatened with extinction via inclusion in Appendix I.