The Secretary General of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (C.I.T.E.S), John E. Scanlon, is in Samoa.
Hosted by the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (S.P.R.E.P), Mr. Scanlon is participating in a range of events and meetings with S.P.R.E.P and partners in an effort to bring about stronger representation of the Pacific island region in C.I.T.E.S.
C.I.T.E.S is an international agreement between 182 Contracting Parties. It seeks to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival. Among the 182 State Parties to C.I.T.E.S are eight countries from the Pacific including Samoa, Australia, Fiji, New Zealand, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu.
“C.I.T.E.S is a dynamic Convention that has been described as standing at the intersection between trade, the environment and development,” says Mr. Scanlon. “It is helping to guide us along the path towards sustainability, with many more marine and timber species being brought under C.I.T.E.S trade controls. Following recent UN resolutions, we are encouraging active participation of all Pacific States in C.I.T.E.S processes and offering our ongoing implementation support.”
The Director General of S.P.R.E.P, Leota Kosi Latu, said C.I.T.E.S is very important to the Pacific.
“Over the next two days we will be exploring avenues to enhance active membership from more Pacific island countries to this very significant Convention that has a positive impact on both wildlife conservation and sustainable livelihoods in the Pacific region,” he said.
“One of the earliest decisions by C.I.T.E.S was the suspension of trade in Hawksbill turtle shells, without which the population of hawksbills would be in far poorer shape than it is now.”
Over 35,000 species of wild animals and plants are covered under C.I.T.E.S, including species that migrate or reside within the Pacific islands region such as all whales and dolphins, marine turtles, corals, several sharks, manta rays and orchids.
The Pacific island countries trade in a range of C.I.T.E.S-listed species, including crocodiles, giant clams (for meat, shells and live aquarium specimens), corals and coral products, butterflies, birds of paradise, parrots, tree ferns, cycads and bigleaf mahogany from plantations.
With more marine and timber species being included on the C.I.T.E.S Appendices, it has become an increasingly important tool for the region to manage and trade its precious wildlife sustainably and legally.
“We are actively promoting participation in C.I.T.E.S by our Pacific island members. Fiji is already playing a leadership role in C.I.T.E.S and S.P.R.E.P will be encouraging our region to add other species from the Pacific islands in the future and to utilise the convention as an important platform to protect threatened species,” said Juney Ward, the Shark and Ray Conservation Officer at S.P.R.E.P.
Fiji has proposed the inclusion of nine species of Mobula rays in the Appendix II of C.I.T.E.S at the upcoming 17th Conference of the Parties to C.I.T.E.S (CoP17) in September 2016. Samoa is a co-sponsor of this proposal. Mobula rays are slow-growing and highly migratory animals that are distributed sparsely across the tropical and temperate oceans; they have been overexploited for their gill plates which are used for medicinal and health purposes in the Asian region.
In July 2015, the UN General Assembly unanimously adopted a resolution on ‘Tackling illicit trafficking in wildlife’ in which it urged UN Member States that are not yet a Party to C.I.T.E.S to consider taking measures to ratify to accede to the Convention and called upon States Parties to take appropriate measures to ensure the full and effective implementation of their obligations under the Convention. There are currently six UN Member States in the Pacific that are not yet Parties to C.I.T.E.S.
“We offer our support and that of our many partners to Pacific States to assist them in joining C.I.T.E.S and in fully and effectively implementing the Convention,” Leota concluded.