Species and Science Abandoned in Favor of Politics and Palates

Friday, March 26, 2010

Dismal Results from UN Convention on International Trade

Doha, Qatar -- As the 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) ends, the outcome appears disastrous for a multitude of imperiled species. While a handful of species was approved by the 175 CITES member nations for protections from international trade, all the marine species, including bluefin tuna, several shark species, 30 coral species, and the polar bear, were rejected in a meeting that may be a turning point for the future of CITES.

"While politics is inevitably inherent to the CITES process, science should predominate in determining if species require restrictions in international commercial trade," stated Susan Millward, Executive Director of the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) who was present in Doha for the duration of the meeting. "At this meeting science took a back seat to politics with Japan and China leading anti-conservation efforts, denying several marine species desperately needed protections," she added.

Species rejected for increased protections include hammerhead sharks which have declined by up to 98 percent in the Northwest Atlantic, the oceanic whitetip shark which has suffered enormous declines in the northwest and west central Atlantic, the porbeagle shark which has declined to less than 30 percent of historical baseline in the North and South Atlantic, and the spiny dogfish which has declined by as much as 99 percent in some populations. The porbeagle shark was initially approved for CITES protection but the decision was overturned when revisited in a plenary session. The Atlantic bluefin tuna, which continues to be massively overexploited to satisfy the demand for the sushi and sashimi markets in Japan, was a victim of intensive lobbying efforts while the polar bear lost despite being threatened by both climate change and international commercial trade.

D.J. Schubert, AWI's wildlife biologist noted, "The corruption, vote-buying, and burgeoning pervasiveness of politics that is increasingly commonplace within CITES demonstrates that this treaty is broken and needs repair so that species requiring protection will get it based on science alone, with politics set aside for the benefit of international conservation."

Media Contact:
Susan Millward, (202) 446-2123