Mahogany, sharks, dolphins and whales get a fighting chance

Feature story - 15 November, 2002
Creating free trade zones has become a hot topic in South America, but this week trade of another kind was on the minds of many in Santiago as world governments met to discuss the international trade in threatened and endangered species.

Common dolphin, Mediterranean.

The suits and skirts walked away from the meeting with what must have been a warm feeling in their hearts after agreeing to regulate trade to protect mahogany, sharks, sea horses and dolphins. In addition, they resisted moves to reopen the trade in whale products.

It was a historic victory for the Amazon rainforest when delegates to the Conventional on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) voted in favour of a proposal that would lead to controlled, sustainable trade in Big Leaf Mahogany. Similar proposals had been submitted for the last 10 years and this year a proposal from Nicaragua and Guatemala was finally accepted. The protection of mahogany will have massive implications for the protection of the Amazon and forests in Latin America. Similar action is now required on threatened tree species in other parts of the world.

Tim Birch attended the entire meeting for Greenpeace and believes that significant progress has been made at this meeting to protect some of the world's most threatened species. "While many of the world's threatened plants and animals continue to be put under pressure by the demands of international trade, in particular marine life we hope that this meeting marks a turning point getting governments to act responsibly and take action to protect species threatened by the global economy."

At last CITES countries have realised that ocean resources are not infinite and are being seriously impacted by commercial trade.

However, many countries, including Japan, Russia, Norway, China and Iceland strongly opposed any attempt for CITES to protect Toothfish (Chilean Sea Bass) under threat by large-scale poaching in the Southern ocean around Antarctica. Illegal fishing of Toothfish is also threatening many species of Albatross with extinction as these sea birds get trapped in the longlines of fishers.

We are looking forward to seeing the Toothfish get protected at the next CITES meeting says Desley Mather, Greenpeace oceans campaigner from the meeting.

"Marine species are under enormous strain and clearly need protection from the pressures of international fish trade. Unfortunately, many governments are all too willing to regulate but only in favour of the powerful fishing lobby's short term interests," said Desley.

CITES was established to regulate and control international trade in wildlife species. It provides three regulatory options in the form of Appendices. Animals and plants listed under Appendix I are excluded from international commercial trade except in very special circumstances. Commercial trade is permitted for species listed under Appendix II but it is strictly controlled based on CITES permits or certificates. Appendix II includes species that are protected within the borders of a member country.