Wildlife conference bolsters protection for sharks and turtles

Wildlife conference bolsters protection for sharks and turtles

PANAMA CITY (AP) — An international wildlife conference has moved to enact some of the most important protections for shark species targeted in the fin trade and the dozens of turtles, lizards and frogs whose numbers are being decimated by the pet trade.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, known by its acronym CITES, ended Friday in Panama. In a record for the conference, delegates enacted protections for more than 500 species. The United Nations wildlife conference also rejected a proposal to reopen the ivory trade. An ivory ban was enacted in 1989.

“CITES Parties are fully aware of their responsibility to address the crisis of biodiversity loss by taking action to ensure that international trade in wildlife is sustainable, legal and traceable,” said Secretary General Ivonne. Higuero in a statement.

“Trade is the foundation of human well-being, but we need to repair our relationship with nature,” she said. “Decisions from this meeting will serve the interests of wildlife conservation and trade, which do not threaten the existence of plant and animal species in the wild, for future generations.”

The International Wildlife Trade Treaty, which was adopted 49 years ago in Washington, DC, has been hailed for helping to stem the illegal and unsustainable trade in rhinoceros ivory and horn as well as whales and sea turtles.

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

One of the biggest accomplishments this year was increasing or protecting over 90 species of sharks, including 54 species of requiem sharks, the bonnethead shark, three species of hammerhead sharks and 37 species of guitarfish. had never had trade protection before and now under Appendix II the trade will be regulated.

Global shark populations are declining, with annual fishing deaths reaching around 100 million. Sharks are primarily sought after for their fins, which are used in shark fin soup, a popular delicacy in China and elsewhere in Asia.

“These species are threatened by unsustainable and unregulated fishing that fuels the international trade in their meat and fins, which has led to significant population declines,” said Rebecca Regnery, senior director of wildlife at Humane. Society International, in a press release. “With the Appendix II listing, CITES Parties can only allow trade if it does not harm the survival of the species in the wild, by giving these species the help they need. needed to recover from overexploitation.”

The conference also enacted protections for dozens of species of turtles, lizards and 160 species of amphibians, including glass frogs whose translucent skin has made them a favorite in the pet trade. Several species of songbirds have also been granted commercial protection along with 150 species of trees.

“Already under immense ecological pressure resulting from habitat loss, climate change and disease, the unmanaged and growing trade in glass frogs exacerbates already existing threats to the species,” said Danielle Kessler, Director American International Fund for Animal Welfare. said in a statement. “This trade must be regulated and limited to sustainable levels to avoid compounding the multiple threats they already face.”

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

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

“Globally beloved mammals such as rhinos, hippos, elephants and leopards did not receive increased protections at this meeting as a group of wonderful weirdos scored conservation victories,” said Tanya Sanerib, international legal director at the Center for Biological Diversity, in a statement. . “In the midst of a heartbreaking extinction crisis, we need a global agreement to fight for all species, even when it’s controversial.”

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