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CITES assembly seals deal to ban ivory trade
Conservationists are generally satisfied with the outcome of the conference of parties to the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna, which concluded last week in Nairobi, Kenya.
Following heated debate, conference delegates from 151 nations agreed to seal an international ban on ivory trading and reject proposals that would have decreased protection measures for gray and minke whales and hawksbill turtles.
Plant and animal species are listed by CITES under two main appendices. The most endangered species are listed under Appendix I, which allows trade only in specific cases. Appendix II comprises threatened species that may become extinct if trade is not regulated.
In an unexpected move, all requests for trade in ivory from elephants were withdrawn during the conference. Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe recalled their proposals to trade in raw ivory. In response, Kenya and India dismissed their proposals to uplist the elephant populations of Namibia, Zimbabwe and Botswana.
All of the nations agreed to delay action on these decisions until better monitoring systems for poaching and trading are in place.
"This kicks the issue to the next conference of CITES parties, when we'll hopefully have more info on poaching and the status of elephant populations," said Karen Steuer, director of commercial exploitation and trade of wild animals for the Interernational Fund for Animal Welfare.
Japan and Norway, who hunt whales for domestic use, hoped to extend trade to international markets. Several delegations opposed the move, arguing that any downlisting would signal the resumption of commercial whaling, which was banned by the International Whaling Commission in 1986.
Cuba's request to sell rare stocks of hawksbill turtles was also turned down. Conservationists argued that opening the trade would encourage other counties where hawksbills migrate to participate in illegal hunting.
Sturgeon, tigers, bears, Tibetan antelope and musk deer also received greater protection from trade. Sharks were not as fortunate.
A joint proposal from Britain, the United States and Australia failed to gain the required two-thirds majority vote to place basking sharks, whale sharks and great white sharks under Appendix II. Such a listing would have guaranteed the first protection under CITES for a commercially fished marine species.
Most opposition to the proposal centered on the debate over whether the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization or CITES should be responsible for managing threatened fish species.
Norway, which objects to increased protection for sharks, argued that CITES lacks the organization and regulatory authority to manage threatened fish.
Conservationists noted that commercial fishing for fins and oil for international trade has seriously depleted shark stocks.
"It is very clear that regional fishery management organizations have failed to properly conserve shark populations, " said Steuer. "This is a great disappointment for shark conservation."
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