30 May 2007, Rome– A panel of experts convened by FAO has supported proposals submitted to the UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and
Flora (CITES) to add sawfish and the European eel to a list of animal species subject to trade restrictions in order to protect stocks in the wild.
The FAO panel was convened as part of a process established by FAO and CITES to provide the Convention with expert advice from fisheries scientists on aquatic species being considered for trade
restrictions. (See story linked to right.)
Once a species is listed by CITES, its trade can be banned completely in extreme cases or, in other situations, permitted only if exporters can certify that the species was legally harvested
and that trading it will not be detrimental to its survival in the wild. The Convention was established to conserve species whose status is being directly impacted by trade. It is not designed
to protect species that are endangered for other reasons.
CITES members will be ruling on proposals to list a number of species when they gather in The Hague next week for the Convention’s annual conference of parties (3-15 June). This year, seven
aquatic animals have been proposed by member countries: Banggai cardinalfish, Brazilian lobsters, the European eel, porbeagle shark, red and pink coral, sawfish and spiny dogfish.
Two species merit listing…
FAO’s panel evaluated these proposals on the basis of biological and trade criteria outlined by CITES. These include a small population size and population declines significantly below
historical levels as well as the importance of international trade as the driving factor behind the over-harvesting causing the decline. The panel also considered the effectiveness of current
management of the species.
Only two of the seven species show clear evidence to support listing: sawfish and the European eel. The panel found that populations of both have declined significantly from historical highs,
that international trade is a key driver in their overexploitation, and that management of these species in the past has typically been poor. The panel also concluded that difficulties in
enforcement and possible negative effects of listing these species would be limited, and that the listings would likely contribute to species conservation.
…five others do not
The panel found that the other proposed species did not meet the criteria for listing by CITES. It also deemed that for most of these species there are situation-specific limitations that would
make enforcement of CITES restrictions difficult, which could impose added administrative burdens on local authorities while having little potential positive impact for conservation.
All species at risk, better management needed
The panel did note that while only two species qualify for CITES listing, for the other five species there are also serious management failures that give cause for concern, and called for these
failures to be urgently remedied through better fisheries management in order to prevent rates of exploitation from exceeding acceptable levels.