Wildlife conference increases protection of sharks and turtles

PANAMA CITY (AP) — An international conference on wildlife has set out to enact some of the most important protection measures for shark species subject to trade in fins and 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 this 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. In 1989 an ivory ban was enacted.

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

“Trade supports human well-being, but we need to mend our relationship with nature,” he said. “The decisions that emerge 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.”

He international wildlife trade treatywhich was adopted 49 years ago in Washington, DC, has been praised for helping to stop the illegal and unsustainable trade in ivory and rhino horn, as well as in whales and sea turtles.

But it has come under fire for its limitations, including its reliance on cash-strapped developing countries to combat illegal trade that has become a lucrative $10 billion a year business.

One of the biggest accomplishments this year was increasing or providing protection for more than 90 shark species, including 54 species of requiem shark, the bonehead shark, three species of hammerhead shark, and 37 species of guitarfish. Many have never had commercial protection before and now, under Appendix II, commercial exchange will be regulated.

Global shark populations are declining, with annual deaths due to fishing reaching 100 million. Sharks are mostly sought after for their fins, which are used in shark fin soup, a popular delicacy in China and other parts of Asia.

“These species are threatened by unsustainable and unregulated fisheries that supply the international trade for their meat and fins, which has led to large population declines,” Rebecca Regnery, senior wildlife director at Humane Society International, said in a statement. a statement. “With an Appendix II listing, CITES Parties can allow trade only if it is not detrimental to the survival of species in the wild, giving these species the help they need 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 made them a favorite in the pet trade. Several species of songbirds also gained commercial protection, as well as 150 species of trees.

“Already under immense ecological pressure as a result of habitat loss, climate change and disease, the increasing and unchecked trade in glass frogs is exacerbating already existing threats to the species,” said Danielle Kessler, director at United States of the International Fund for Animal Welfare. she 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 most controversial proposals did not pass.

Some African countries and conservation groups hoped to ban the hippo trade. But the European Union, some African countries and several conservation groups objected, arguing that many countries have healthy hippo populations and that trade is not a factor in their decline.

“Globally beloved mammals like rhinos, hippos, elephants and leopards were given no greater protections at this meeting, while a group of wonderful weirdos scored conservation victories,” said Tanya Sanerib, director international law from 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 contentious.”

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