HomeScienceWildlifeSharks, turtles, disease on agenda of wildlife trade summit

Sharks, turtles, disease on agenda of wildlife trade summit

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Panama City (AFP) – The trade in shark fins, turtles and other endangered species will be scrutinized from Monday at a global wildlife summit in Panama, which will also focus on the spread of diseases such as Covid-19.

Conservation experts and representatives from more than 180 countries will gather to study 52 proposals aimed at changing the protection levels established by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

CITES delegates will also take stock of the fight against fraud and vote on new resolutions, such as the increased risk of spreading disease from animals to humans, which is linked to human trafficking and became a major problem after the Covid-19 outbreak. in 2020 .

CITES, in effect since 1975, regulates the trade in some 36,000 species of plants and animals and provides mechanisms to combat the illegal trade. It sanctions countries that break the rules.

The meeting of the Parties to the Convention takes place every two or three years.

This year it takes place in the shadow of two major UN conferences with a high commitment to the future of the planet and all its inhabitants: the COP27 climate meeting currently taking place in Egypt, and the COP15 conference on biodiversity in Montreal in December. .

At its last meeting in Geneva, 2019, CITES stepped up protection for giraffes and came close to imposing a total ban on sending wild-caught African elephants to zoos.

Delegates also enforced a ban on the sale of ivory in southern Africa and decided to include 18 species of rays and sharks in CITES Appendix II, which requires trade tracking and regulation.

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‘Shark extinction crisis’

This year, delegates will weigh in on a proposal to regulate trade in requiem sharks, hammerhead sharks and guitarfish rays.

“It would be a historic moment if these three proposals are passed: we would go from about 25 percent of the shark fin trade to more than 90 percent,” said Ilaria Di Silvestre, head of the European Union’s campaigns for the International Fund. for Animal Welfare (IFAW).

Meanwhile, Luke Warwick of the Wildlife Conservation Society warned that “we are in the midst of a very major shark extinction crisis”.

He said sharks, which are vital to the ocean’s ecosystem, are “the second most endangered vertebrate group on Earth.”

“The trade in shark products — particularly fins, which can be worth about $1,000 per kilogram in markets in East Asia — for use in a luxurious dish of shark fin soup is driving the decline of these ancient ocean predators around the world.”

Sue Lieberman, the vice president of the Wildlife Conservation Society, told AFP that China — one of the largest consumers of shark fin soup — has never voted in favor of a CITES proposal for marine species, but often “implements it after it’s passed.”

“I like to say this is the Reptile COP,” said Lieberman, who has attended every CITES summit since 1989.

Three crocodile species, three lizard species, several snakes and 12 freshwater turtles face a total ban on the trade.

A green sea turtle swims off Gorgona Island in the Pacific Ocean off the Colombian mainland Luis ROBAYO AFP/File

“The world’s freshwater turtles are being exploited unsustainably and illegally for the pet trade, the forager trade and the food trade in Asia,” said Lieberman.

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Endangered violin wood

Trade in certain trees will also be examined, with proposals to add African mahogany and some varieties of brightly colored flowering trumpet trees to Appendix II.

Brazil has called for a total ban on the trade in Pernambuco wood – which is already protected – and this is troubling musicians around the world as it has been used for centuries as the main source of wood for making string instruments such as violins and cello. .

TRAFFIC, CITES’ scientific advisory body, has recommended rejecting the proposal, which is unlikely to receive the required two-thirds of the vote.

The Panama meeting, which will last until November 25, is the first to be held since the outbreak of the SARS-CoV-2 virus in Wuhan, China, which many scientists believed came from bats before infecting humans.

“CITES is only about international trade, and markets for live wildlife, as in Wuhan of course, are not under the purview of international trade associations,” Lieberman said.

“But nevertheless, CITES must make a statement… It seems to us that it would be very inappropriate for CITES for its first meeting after the start of the pandemic, not to mention that we, we hope they will do something contract.”

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