CITES - Introduction from the Sea and More Proposals

The afternoon session in Committee I began with Proposals 4 (Percy Island flying-fox); 5 (Tasmanian tiger); 6 (Crescent nailtail wallaby; 7 (Desert rat kangaroo); 8 (Pig-footed bandicoot); and 9 (Lesser bilby). The proposals asked to remove these species from CITES Appendices because they are not extinct and the only specimens which remain are those in museums. The proposals were approved. Proposal 10.  Southern White Rhino. Proposed by Kenya. The proposal asked for a zero quota until the illegal trade is under control in South Africa and Swaziland.



All other species of rhinos are on Appendix I, only the southern white rhino remains on Appendix II. In addition to poaching of rhinos, of growing concern are the ‘pseudo-hunts’ of trophy animals by syndicates at cooperating game farms. The Environmental Investigation Agency showed footage shot in South Africa of a Vietnamese embassy employee transferring rhino horns to a Vietnamese embassy car. Diplomatic immunity prevented action by the South African authorities. Until recently, the game farms participating in ‘pseudo-hunts’ were only fined, but now jail terms are also imposed.

In 1993, China banned the rhino horn trade, but today China has become a prime destination for rhino horn from Nepal and India. There was an unverified report that a company, which received approval to trade in rhino horn, has approached rebel groups offering to  provide arms in exchange for rhino horn. Also discussed at the EIA session was the possibility of legalizing rhino horn, but since 90% of the ivory in China is illegal, according to the EIA, it would be catastrophic to dismantle the current ban on rhino horn.

Proposal 10 was withdrawn, and  I asked  one of the SSN rhino experts why. He said that 'pseudo-hunting' accounts for 15% of rhino losses, the remainder are due to poaching. He said that South Africa has placed a moratorium on trophy permits issued to Vietnamese, and created “all kinds of hoops that citizens of other countries must go through"  with result that the moratorium has significantly reduced the loss of rhinos. Wish that was true but an event I attended later in the day by the International Ranger Federation, et al,  indicated organized crime syndicates have already found the loopholes in the system.

Proposal 13 – West African Manatee, proposed by Benin, Senegal and Sierra Leone for transfer from Appendix II to Appendix I. The species is exploited for bushmeat and traditional medicines. Although its range states prohibit trade, enforcement is poor and they have experienced increases in poaching and illegal trade. More than 350 manatees were killed between 2007 and 2010 and authorities report the emergence of an organized “manatee mafia”. The West African manatee meets the criteria for Appendix I and it is predicted the species will sustain a decline of 30% in three generations (i.e., 60 years). The proposal was approved by consensus.

Proposal 11 – Tanzania’s proposal to transfer the African elephant from Appendix I to Appendix II was withdrawn.

Proposal 12 - African Elephant, proposed by Burkina Faso and Kenya, was referred to a Working Group.

Proposals 14 through 22 concerned birds. The US State Department said that only one of the proposals (#28 - transfer Attwater’s greater prairie chicken from Appendix I to Appendix II) was adopted, the other proposals were rejected. While those proposals were being debated and voted upon, I was in Committee II.

In Committee II – Doc. 32 – Introduction From the Sea consisted of amendments to include CITES Appendix I and II specimens taken from the marine environment not under jurisdiction of any State.



In scenario 1,  an IFS certificate would be required when the flag State of the vessel that caught the specimen is the State where it is transported, and no other CITES documentation is needed if the specimen is sold domestically.

In scenario 2, an export permit would be required when flag state of the vessel is not the State into which the specimen is transported. The Flag State must issue the export permit. For Appendix I specimens, the State into which the specimen is transported must issue an import permit. These rules balance the interests of the flag and port states.

A very narrow ‘chartering exception’ requires a written agreement between flag and chartering states consistent with the chartering provisions of the relevant regional fisheries management organizations (RFMO). The agreement must also be made known to the CITES Secretariat. The exception supports the flag State responsibility by requiring the consent of the flag State for its use, and enhances the synergies with RFMOs by requiring that any written arrangement between a flag State and a chartering State be consistent with the rules of the relevant RFMO. If no relevant RFMO exists, or if the RFMO does not have chartering provisions, then the CITES chartering exception may not be used.

Clarification of rules regarding Introduction from the Sea are overdue as an increasing number of high seas specimens are proposed for listing or already on CITES Appendices. India opposed the document, claiming CITES was overstepping its authority by setting regulations for sovereign States. Argentina also objected and suggested another Working Group, but the Chair noted that the 13 years this document has been in committee was long enough. The matter was put to a vote: 56% approved, 15% against, and 14% abstained.  With acceptance of Doc. 32, the Parties now have a complete set of rules for issuing CITES documents for catches on the high seas.  IFS is a critically important decision to shark conservation!

Then came more side events, running concurrently (arghh! I wanted to attend all of them but had to choose).

First was “Where have all the elephants gone - undercover work with poachers, smugglers and traders – its impact on the frontline rangers, presented by the Thin Green Line Foundation and Ian Redmond. It was standing room only! Wished I could have taped every word.

There was also a superb event supporting the shark proposals, hosted by SSN, German Elasmobranch Society, Shark Advocates International, the Humane Society, Project AWARE and others. Since virtually everyone in the room was knowledgeable about sharks, delegates who were on the fence about the shark proposals (fearing adoption of the proposals might harm their local fisheries) were reassured and, hopefully, we gained more votes for the shark proposals.

Stay tuned for more info tomorrow.