03 Mar 2013 Press release Ecosystems

CITES Conference Opens Amid Calls to Combat Overfishing, Illegal Logging and Wildlife Crime

Bangkok, 3 March 2013 - The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) will hold its next triennial conference in Bangkok from 3 to 14 March to decide how to improve the world's wildlife trade regime that has been in place for 40 years.

Some 2,000 delegates representing 177 governments, indigenous peoples, non-governmental organizations and businesses are expected to attend and discuss, among other things, 70 proposals for amending the rules for specific species. Many of these proposals reflect growing international concern about the escalation of poaching and illegal trafficking of wild animals, the destruction of the world's marine and forest resources through overfishing and excessive logging and the risks that wildlife crime represents for the security of the planet. 

"2013 is the 40th anniversary of CITES and it will be a critical year for the world's wildlife. CITES is known for taking meaningful decisions that have an impact 'on-the-ground'. CITES is where the 'rubber hits the road' and the outcomes of our world wildlife conference in 2013 will be of great significance to the future of many species of plants and animals", said John E. Scanlon, Secretary-General of the Convention. 

Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and Executive Director UN Environment Programme (UNEP), said: "CITES is as relevant today as it was four decades ago, indeed perhaps even more so. As over-exploitation of the world's critical natural resource base continues on an unsustainable path, ever more pressure is being put on species".

"Yet CITES alongside many other international agreements provides a wealth of examples where countries seizing the opportunites from far more resource efficient developmental pathways The outcomes of Rio+20 and meetings like CITES offer a focus for accelerating and scaling-up positive environmental change with significant social and economic outcomes," he added. 

The 70 proposals submitted by 55 countries from across all regions of the world seek to improve the conservation and sustainable use of marine species (including several shark species) and timber species (including over a 100 species from Madagascar), the vicuna population of Ecuador, freshwater turtles, frogs, crocodiles, ornamental and medicinal plants and many other animals and plants. Proposals addressing elephants, white rhinoceros, and polar bears were also submitted. 

Governments will consider and accept, reject or adjust these proposals for amending the CITES Appendices at the Conference of the Parties. The world's conference will also consider: how CITES can further enhance efforts to combat the illegal trade in elephant ivory and rhino horn - and other species; whether CITES should request the Global Environment Facility to serve as a financial mechanism for CITES - to assist countries implement their obligations at the national level; the potential impacts of CITES measures on the livelihoods of the rural poor, who are often on the frontlines of using and managing wildlife; the use of secret ballots; and whether 3 March, the date of adoption of CITES in Washington DC in 1973, should be declared as World Wildlife Day. 

Many of these proposals are submitted jointly, including by producing and consuming countries, and they reflect the growing international concern about the accelerating decline of biodiversity through the illegal or unsustainable trade of individual species. 

The CITES Appendices lists species that could be at risk and whose import, export and re-export is controlled through a permit system (Appendix II) and species that are already threatened with extinction and cannot be commercially traded (Appendix I).