The United Nations Wildlife Refuge (CITES) promotes the protection of sharks and turtles

A lemon shark, of the family Carcharhinidae, swims towards a group of divers and surrounds a bait box, followed by a fish looking to get a bite of the shark's food, during a shark dive off Jupiter, Florida on February 11, 2022.

A lemon shark, of the family Carcharhinidae, swims towards a group of divers and surrounds a bait box, followed by a fish looking to get a bite of the shark’s food, during a shark dive off Jupiter, Florida on February 11, 2022. | Image source: AFP

An international wildlife conference has moved to enact some of the most important protections for the species of sharks targeted in the flipper trade and the scores of turtles, lizards and frogs whose numbers have been decimated by the pet trade.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, known by its initials CITES, expired on November 25, 2022 in Panama. Along with protections for more than 500 species, delegates at the United Nations Wildlife Conference rejected a proposal to reopen the ivory trade. An ivory ban was introduced in 1989.

“The good news from CITES is good news for wildlife because this treaty is a pillar of international protection, essential to ensuring countries unite in combating the interconnected global crises of biodiversity collapse, climate change, and pandemics,” said Susan Lieberman, Vice President, Vice President. – Head of International Policy at the Wildlife Conservation Society.

“Many of the proposals adopted here reflect ongoing over-exploitation, unsustainable trade, and the rise of illegal trade, and some are due to the complex interactions of other threats that reduce species numbers in the wild, including climate change, disease, infrastructure development, and loss of habitats.”

The Treaty on International Wildlife Trade, adopted 49 years ago in Washington, D.C., has been lauded for helping eradicate the illegal and unsustainable trade in ivory and rhino horn as well as in whales and sea turtles.

But it has been criticized for its limitations, including its reliance on cash-strapped developing countries to combat illegal trade that has become a lucrative $10 billion-a-year business.

One of the biggest accomplishments this year was the increase or protection of more than 90 species of sharks, including 54 species of sacred reef shark, bluetip reef shark, three species of hammerhead shark, and 37 species of guitarfish. Many of them did not have commercial protection before, and now, under the second annex, commercial trade will be regulated.

Shark numbers are declining in the world, with annual deaths due to fisheries running at about 100 million. Sharks are mostly hunted for their fins, which are used in shark fin soup, a popular delicacy in China and elsewhere in Asia.

“This species is threatened by unsustainable and unregulated fisheries that supply international trade in their meat and fins, resulting in significant declines in their numbers,” Rebecca Rainery, senior director of wildlife at Humane Society International, said in a statement. “With the Appendix II list, parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) can only allow trade if it is not detrimental to the species’ survival in the wild, giving these species the help they need to recover from over-exploitation.”

The conference also enacted protection measures for dozens of species of turtles, lizards and frogs, including glass frogs, whose transparent skin made them a favorite in the pet trade. Several species of songbirds have also received commercial protection.

“Under massive environmental pressure from habitat loss, climate change and disease, the unmanaged and growing trade in glass frogs is exacerbating already existing threats to the species,” said Danielle Kessler, US director of the International Fund for Animal Welfare. he said in a statement. “This trade must be regulated and restricted to sustainable levels to avoid exacerbating the multiple threats they already face.”

But some of the more controversial proposals have not been approved.

A hippopotamus floats in the lake in the park of Hacienda Napoles, which was once the private property of drug lord Pablo Escobar who, decades ago, imported three female hippos and one male.  An international conference on trade in endangered species ended November 25, 2022 in Panama, with more than 500 species in protection status.

A hippopotamus floats in the lake in the park of Hacienda Napoles, which was once the private property of drug lord Pablo Escobar who, decades ago, imported three female hippos and one male. An international conference on trade in endangered species ended November 25, 2022 in Panama, with more than 500 species in protection status. | Image source: AP

Some African countries and conservation groups had hoped to ban the hippo trade. But it has been opposed by the European Union, some African countries and several conservation groups, who argue that many countries have healthy hippo populations and that trade is not a factor in their decline.

“Universally beloved mammals such as rhinos, hippos, elephants and cheetahs did not receive increased protection at this meeting while a host of remarkable strangers won conservation victories,” Tanya Snyrib, international legal director at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement. . “In the midst of a heartbreaking extinction crisis, we need a global agreement to fight for all species, even when they are controversial.”

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