The consensus agreement by the CITES Conference of Parties on elephant conservation provides for a nine-year resting period on ivory sales after an agreed one-off sale of government-owned stocks of raw ivory. The historic consensus between African Ministers ends 18 years of controversial debate in CITES, thus paving the way for more constructive dialogue on elephant conservation programmes in the coming years. The agreement, to which the EU has actively contributed, stipulates that only existing ivory stocks registered before 31 January 2007 by the governments of Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe and South Africa, from elephants that died naturally and from management measures for elephants, will be released for the one-off sale. After that, no immediate proposals for ivory trade from these countries will be considered by CITES. Indeed, discussion on adopting a mechanism for decision-making on future sales will only take place at the 16th meeting of the Conference of Parties.
The agreement also includes an African Elephant Action Plan to be developed by the African countries. This will be supported financially by a newly established African Elephant Fund, whose Steering Committee will be composed of Range States and Donors.
The European Commission welcomes the adoption of the EU proposal for listing European eels on CITES. International trade in the European eel will be regulated in order to prevent over fishing of eels and glass eels for the international market. The European Commission has just adopted this week a European eel action plan for the conservation of the European eel. The regulation and control of the international trade through CITES is a complementary action to various conservation actions for this species. Proposals for adopting two shark species did not reach the necessary 2/3 majority.
Concerning timber, the EU proposals for improved trade regulation of three tree species (Cedrela and 2 Dalbergia species) under CITES were not endorsed by the Parties. Listing on the CITES appendices would have served to combat illegal trade in these species as well as guarantee its sustainable harvest. Although countries of origin were not supportive of immediate listing they endorsed an action plan which will result in further information gathering in view of proposing additional measures during the next Conference. The proposal of Brazil to regulate the trade in Brazil wood was adopted by consensus.
The European Commission welcomes the new strategic vision for CITES for the next six years, which firmly places CITES within the wider international biodiversity and development agenda, thus reaffirming the commitment of CITES to contribute to achieving the global target of significantly reducing the rate of biodiversity loss by 2010. The vision embraces the principle of sustainability and advocates a coherent approach to addressing unsustainable trade in all species, including those that are commercially exploited.
The European Commission welcomes the chair’s report on the CITES Ministerial Round Table, the first in CITES history, which took place on 13 June during the working sessions of the CoP. This document reflects general political consensus and commitment to strengthen implementation and enforcement of CITES and endorses the key actions set out in the Commission's Recommendation. It also provides an avenue for CITES to take a role in addressing unsustainable trade in timber and marine species.
In line with the international commitment to strengthen enforcement of CITES and in response to the Council’s December 2006 conclusions on halting the loss of biodiversity, the Commission on 13 June adopted a Recommendation to Member States. The Recommendation sets out a series of measures that Member States should implement in order to enhance their efforts to combat illegal trade. These include adopting national action plans for enforcement, imposing sufficiently high penalties for wildlife trade offences and using risk and intelligence assessments to detect illegal and smuggled wildlife products. Equally important consideration is given to raising public awareness about the negative impacts of illegal wildlife trade and ensuring greater cooperation and exchange of information within and between Member States as well as with third countries, Interpol and the World Customs Organization.
In line with the new strategic vision for CITES, the Conference of the Parties agreed to a proposal co-sponsored by the EU to develop tools and guidelines to assist Parties in addressing the impacts of CITES listing decisions on the livelihoods of the poor, particularly in developing countries.
The Conference also endorsed EU proposals aimed at enhancing compliance and enforcement and strengthening efforts by Parties to combat illegal trade in CITES-listed species. They focus on improving enforcement cooperation within and among countries, applying sanctions for illegal wildlife trade that are appropriate to their nature and gravity, as well as addressing illegal trade over the internet. The Conference also strongly advised range States to urgently strengthen efforts to stop illegal trade in critically endangered big Asian cat species.
The Commission welcomes the CoP decision to strengthen measures to control the trade in sturgeon caviar in order to reduce illegal trade and to establish a transparent process for range States to set quotas for shared sturgeon stocks that ensure that harvesting and trade will not be detrimental to conservation of the species in the wild. The European Commission has already taken measures to tackle illegal trade in caviar by requiring that all tins of caviar imported, exported or marketed in the EU bear a specific label certifying that it is legally sourced.