Wildlife conference boosts protection for sharks, turtles

PANAMA CITY (AP) — An international wildlife conference has moved to enact some of the most important protections for shark species targeted in the fin trade and dozens of turtles, lizards and frogs whose numbers are decimated by the pet trade.

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, known by its initials as CITES, expired on Friday in Panama. Along with protections for more than 500 species, delegates at the United Nations wildlife conference rejected a proposal to reopen the ivory trade. The ivory ban was enacted in 1989.

“The good news from CITES is good news for wildlife, as this treaty is one of the pillars of international conservation, imperative to ensure that countries come together to fight the global, interconnected crises of biodiversity collapse, of climate change and pandemics,” said Susan Lieberman, the vice president. chair of International Policy at the Wildlife Conservation Society.

“Many of the proposals adopted here reflect that there is continued overexploitation and unsustainable trade and escalating illegal trade, and some are due to complex interactions of other threats that reduce populations of species in the wild, including climate change, disease, development infrastructure and habitat loss,” he added.

The international treaty on wildlife tradewhich was passed 49 years ago in Washington, DC, has been praised for its contribution to curbing the illegal and unsustainable trade in ivory and rhino horn, as well as whales and sea turtles.

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

One of the biggest achievements this year was the increase or protection of more than 90 species of sharks, including 54 species of requiem sharks, the tip shark, three species of hammerhead shark and 37 species of guitarfish. Many have never had trade protection before and now, under Annex II, trade will be regulated.

Global shark populations are declining, with annual fishing deaths reaching around 100 million. Sharks are sought after mainly for their fins, which are used in shark fin soup, a popular delicacy in China and elsewhere in Asia.

“These species are threatened by unsustainable and unregulated fishing that feeds the international trade in their meat and fins, which has led to widespread population declines,” said Rebecca Regnery, senior director of wildlife at Humane Society International. “With the Appendix II listing, CITES Parties can only allow trade if it is not detrimental to the survival of the species in the wild, giving these species the help they need to recover from overexploitation.”

The conference also established protection measures for dozens of species of turtles, lizards and frogs including glass frogs whose translucent skin made them a favorite in the pet trade. Many species of songbirds also received commercial protection.

“Already under enormous ecological pressure resulting from habitat loss, climate change and disease, the uncontrolled and growing trade in glass frogs is exacerbating already existing threats to the species,” said Danielle Kessler, US director for the International Fund for the Protection of Animals. he said in a statement. “This trade must be regulated and limited to sustainable levels to avoid adding to the multiple threats they already face.”

But some of the more controversial proposals were not adopted.

Some African countries and conservation groups hoped to ban the hippo trade. However, it has been opposed by the European Union, some African countries and many conservation groups, who argue that many countries have healthy hippo populations and that trade is not a factor in their decline.

“World-loved mammals like rhinos, hippos, elephants and leopards didn’t get increased protection at this meeting, while a bunch of wonderful weirdos won conservation victories,” said Tanya Sanerib, international legal director at the Center for Biological Diversity , in a statement. . “In the midst of a terrifying extinction crisis, we need global agreement to fight for all species, even when it’s controversial.”

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