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Press Release



United States to Support Trade Restrictions on Bluefin Tuna, Polar Bears, and Other Imperiled Species at CITES Conference in Qatar



03/12/2010


Contact: Hugh Vickery (DOI), 202-208-6416
Craig Rieben (FWS), 703-358-2225
Christine Eustis (FWS – Doha), 703-343-3939


DOHA, Qatar – Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Fish and Wildlife and Parks Tom Strickland today said the United States will support trade restrictions on bluefin tuna, polar bears, and imperiled corals and sharks among other proposals at the meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) that begins next week.

 “The United States will push hard to curtail international trade in species that are sliding towards extinction, including species such as bluefin tuna that are currently not regulated under the treaty,” said Strickland, who is heading the U.S. delegation to the treaty’s 15th Conference of the Parties. “At the same time, we will renew our commitment to help range countries scientifically manage and conserve species such as tigers and elephants already protected under the treaty.”

CITES is an international agreement initiated in 1973 and signed by more than 175 countries regulating global trade in imperiled wild animals and plants including their parts and products. A Conference of the Parties is held every 2-3 years to review, discuss, and negotiate changes in the management and control of trade in the various wildlife species covered by the agreement.

CITES is an international agreement initiated in 1973 and signed by more than 175 countries regulating global trade in imperiled wild animals and plants including their parts and products. A Conference of the Parties is held every 2-3 years to review, discuss, and negotiate changes in the management and control of trade in the various wildlife species covered by the agreement.
Member nations consider proposals to list species in one of three appendices to the Convention:

  • Appendix I includes species for which it is determined that any commercial trade is detrimental to the survival of the species. Therefore, no commercial trade is allowed in Appendix-I species. Non-commercial trade in such species is allowed if it does not jeopardize the species' survival in the wild. Permits are required for the exportation and importation of Appendix-I species. 
  • Appendix II includes species for which it has been determined that commercial trade may be detrimental to the survival of the species if that trade is not strictly controlled. Trade in these species is regulated through the use of export permits. 
  • Appendix III includes species listed by a range country that requires the assistance of other parties to ensure that exports of their native species are legal. Permits and certificates are used to control and monitor trade in Appendix-III species. Any CITES Party may place a native species in Appendix III

    Strickland said the conservation of Atlantic bluefin tuna is a high priority for the United States, and the delegation will be supporting a proposal by Monaco to list the species in Appendix I. Tuna populations have declined significantly in recent years, largely due to over-harvest.


“The purpose of CITES is to put a check on international commerce when it threatens a species’ existence,” Strickland said. “The U.S. government has significant concerns about the serious compliance problems that have plagued the Eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean fishery, and the fact that the 2010 International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) quota level is not as low as needed, the United States will support the proposal to list Atlantic bluefin tuna in Appendix I at COP15.  We intend to work actively with Monaco and other CITES and ICCAT parties in order to achieve positive results for bluefin tuna.”

Other U.S. positions highlighted by Strickland include:

  • The United States has submitted a proposal to list polar bears in Appendix I to highlight the need to enhance protections for the species. The proposal is based on information on polar bear habitat and reflects a concern that caution is necessary to ensure commercial trade does not compound the existing threats to the species continued existence such as climate change.
  • In cooperation with several other range countries, the United States also has submitted proposals to list red and pink corals and several species of sharks in Appendix II. There is concern that over-exploitation for international trade is having adverse impacts on these species. The corals are suffering from demand for use in jewelry and other products, while some of the shark species are being decimated by the international trade in shark fins.
  • The United States will fully support the inclusion of timber species in CITES when international trade is a threat to their effective management and sustainable use. For CoP15, the United States has submitted a document to improve the effectiveness of CITES Appendix-III timber listings. This was endorsed by both the CITES Plants Committee (the technical committee on plant issues, including timber), and the Standing Committee (executive body that oversees implementation) of the Convention between meetings of the Conference of the Parties.


Member nations will also consider several proposals affecting African elephant populations during the meeting, including one by Tanzania and Zambia to allow a one-time sale of their ivory stockpiles and one by other African nations to place a 20-year moratorium on all ivory sales.

“The United States will be active at the meeting to ensure that any decisions on African elephants regarding changes in listings or to allow further trade in ivory do not contribute to the recent increases in poaching and illegal trade,” Strickland said.

Meanwhile, Strickland said the United States remains a strong advocate for efforts to eliminate the illegal trade in tigers and other Asian big cats. It also supports conservation efforts for the tiger in other countries, such as India, through funding and technical assistance that includes resource management, research, and education.

The United States will provide support and assistance to other range-country proposals for endemic species, including several species of iguana from Guatemala and Honduras, and proposals from Argentina for holy wood and Brazil for Brazilian rosewood.

The United States is proposing to remove CITES protections from the bobcat, a species that is listed because of its similarity of appearance to other spotted cats listed as threatened as a result of trade.  The United States has been working with the European Union to resolve identification and enforcement issues.  Since bobcats are not threatened or endangered, the United States is seeking to remove the species from inclusion in Appendix II of the treaty.

In order to support the U.S. delegation during the conference and bolster the flow of information from the session concerning topics of interest, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has established a new web site dedicated to the effort and reflecting the U.S.
perspective. The interactive site at www.uscites.gov features information and highlights of the meeting and the intent is to maintain it as a valuable source for current CITES information even after the conference has ended. It is not intended in any way to replace the official CITES organizational web site at www.cites.org.