This article was written by Kathia Martinez and was published in the Toronto Star on November 27, 2022.
An international wildlife conference moved to enact some of the most significant protection for shark species targeted in the fin trade and scores 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 as CITES, ended Friday in Panama. In a record for the conference, delegates enacted protections for over 500 species. The United Nations wildlife conference also rejected a proposal to reopen the ivory trade. An ivory ban was enacted in 1989.
“The Parties to CITES are fully aware of their responsibility to address the biodiversity loss crisis by taking action to ensure that the international trade in wildlife is sustainable, legal and traceable,” Secretary-General Ivonne Higuero said in a statement.
“Trade underpins human well-being, but we need to mend our relationship with nature,” she said. “The decisions coming from this meeting will serve the interests of conservation and wildlife trade, that doesn’t threaten the existence of species of plants and animals in the wild, for future generations.”
The international wildlife trade treaty, which was adopted 49 years ago in Washington, D.C., has been praised for helping stem the illegal and unsustainable trade in ivory and rhino horns 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’s become a lucrative $10-billion-a-year (U.S.) business.
One of the biggest achievements this year was increasing or providing protection for more than 90 shark species, including 54 species of requiem sharks, the bonnethead shark, three species of hammerhead shark and 37 species of guitarfish. Many had never before had trade protection and now, under Appendix II, the commercial trade will be regulated.
Global shark populations are declining, with annual deaths due to fisheries reaching about100 million. The sharks are sought mostly for their fins, which are used in shark fin soup, a popular delicacy in China and elsewhere in Asia.
The conference also enacted protections for dozens of species of turtle, lizard and 160 amphibian species, including glass frogs whose translucent skin made them a favourite in the pet trade. Several song birds also got trade protection as well as 150 tree species.