Department of the Interior

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CONTACT: Hugh Vickery
September 23, 2004
United States to Support Protections for Great White Sharks, Other Threatened Species at CITES Conference in Bangkok

(WASHINGTON) -- Great white sharks are one of the world's most feared predators, but a sharp decline in their populations means the United States will be supporting international trade restrictions to protect the species, Assistant Secretary of the Interior for Fish and Wildlife and Parks Craig Manson said today.

Manson will head the U.S. delegation to the 13th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in the Threatened and Endangered Species (CITES) in Bangkok from Oct. 2 to14. CITES is an international agreement signed by more than 160 nations to regulate global trade in certain wild animals and plants that are or may become threatened with extinction due to commercial trade.

Like many species of sharks, great whites have been over-harvested, especially for their fins, which are used in soups and medicines.

"People have a natural terror of 'Jaws,' but great white sharks and many other plants and animals are the species that are truly threatened," Manson said. "By helping regulate sustainable wildlife trade while working to curb poaching and shut down black markets, CITES applies the power of international partnership and cooperation to conserving these species."
In addition to supporting the proposal by Australia and Madagascar to limit trade in great white sharks, the United States has submitted proposals to protect three Asian turtle species, the painted bunting (a North American songbird), the humphead wrasse (a coral reef fish) and four species of Asian yew (a tree).

The United States also is proposing to ease export restrictions on American bald eagles, reflecting their dramatically improved population status in the lower 48 states. The proposal would bring the eagle's CITES status into line with its status as a threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. Since eagles are protected under a number of U.S. laws, the only practical effect of the U.S. proposal would be to make it easier for Native American tribes in the United States and Canada to exchange eagles feathers and parts for religious purposes.
Manson made the announcement of the tentative U.S. negotiating positions for the conference as part of a Federal Register Notice being published in advance of the conference. These positions include:

  • The United States is not yet taking a formal position on proposals by South Africa and Namibia to allow export of a small number of sport-hunted black rhinoceroses. "We will decide whether to support the proposals, which are designed to raise funds for rhino conservation efforts in those countries, after consultations with all African range nations," Manson said. "We will support these proposals only if we are assured that they are part of a comprehensive long-term program to benefit the species," Manson said.
  • The United States is opposing a proposal by Namibia to establish an annual export quota for sale of ivory. The United States supported a one-time sale of ivory stocks by Namibia, South Africa and Botswana at the last CITES conference of the parties in 2002 on the condition that monitoring system on illegal killing of African elephants be established before the sale. This system is not in place yet.
  • The United States is undecided on a proposal by Indonesia to restrict trade in ramin, a tropical hardwood mainly found in Malaysia and Indonesia that has been subject to widespread illegal logging. "We have serious concerns about unregulated trade in ramin, but we want to discuss the situation with range countries before reaching a decision on the proposal," Manson said.

The United States is proposing to remove CITES protections from bobcats because they are not threatened or endangered, and do not meet the conditions for inclusion in Appendix II of the treaty.

A CITES-regulated species may be included 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 are used to control and monitor trade in native species. Any CITES Party may place a native species in Appendix III.
  • Any listing of a species in either Appendix I or II requires approval by two-thirds of the CITES party countries that vote on the proposal.



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