43. The Secretariat introduced Agenda Item 8, referring to document RFB/II/2001/6. Some background on the mandate and role of CITES was provided, and the intention of listing on each of the three Appendices was briefly described. The growing interest within CITES in commercially-exploited fish species had led some FAO member countries to request FAO to undertake a review of the CITES criteria as they applied to commercially-exploited aquatic species. The Secretariat explained the progress made in the review to date, especially referring to the conclusions and recommendations of the Technical Consultation on the Suitability of the CITES Criteria for Listing Commercially-exploited Aquatic Species, held in June 2000.
44. The Secretariat drew the attention of the meeting, in particular, to the following recommendations of the Consultation. The Consultation agreed that the existing criteria and guidelines needed to be reviewed to consider the specific characteristics of commercially-exploited aquatic resources, taking into account differences in life histories and between taxonomic groups. There was also a need to improve understanding of the listing of species in Appendix II, and there were differences of opinion as to whether it related to reducing the risk of extinction and/or promoting sustainable use. These differences needed to be resolved. A further significant outcome from the meeting was identification of the need for encouragement for the use of national competence in fisheries in the elaboration of proposals for listing in CITES of resources exploited by fisheries in marine and large freshwater bodies. It was suggested that a Working Group should be established within FAO to consider problems and potential solutions in relation to listing fishery resources under Article II, particularly those listed on the basis of paragraph 2(b) [the "look-alike" provision]. Finally, the Secretariat drew attention to the request from the Technical Consultation that the Fisheries Department of FAO should play a facilitating role in improving dialogue and communications among member States, RFMOs and CITES.
45. In the ensuing discussion, many representatives indicated that the role of CITES and the nature of the listing criteria had not been directly addressed by their RFBs. In one case where there had been discussions within the RFB, the representative referred to concerns with the criteria relating to the distinction between species and stocks, and also that the numbers of individuals occurring in fish stocks at even low population abundances were orders of magnitude greater than numbers referred to in the CITES Guidelines. Another Representative stated that the Member States of that RFB were of the opinion that CITES should not be involved in fisheries. The Representative referred to the substantial changes in the legal and institutional frameworks of fisheries since the CITES Convention entered into force in 1975. It was pointed out that since then, the international community had adopted a number of international instruments, including the UN Law of the Sea, the Compliance Agreement, the UN Fish Stocks Agreement, and the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries. Parallel to this, there had been the establishment and/or strengthening of some RFBs. The view of that RFB was therefore that aquatic species being harvested commercially, regardless of its stock status, should be managed by the appropriate fishery bodies, taking into account the provisions of recently adopted international instruments rather than placed on a CITES Agenda.
46. Concern was also expressed by some representatives about the difficulties associated with delisting of species once they had been placed on an Appendix. It was agreed that suitable criteria and a process should be developed to ensure timely delisting when a species had recovered sufficiently to justify this. Another representative stated that a particular RFB found CITES a useful mechanism for complementing the management capacity of their Member States which frequently suffered from limited capacity and resources to manage all resources effectively.
47. Most of the remaining discussion focused on the CITES process for listing species rather than on the criteria themselves and there was considerable interest in Recommendation 12(d) of the FAO Technical Consultation which called on the Fisheries Department of FAO to play a facilitating role in improved dialogue and communications among Member States, regional fisheries management organizations and CITES. This recommendation arose from the directive of Article XV of CITES which requires the CITES Secretariat, when they receive a proposal for listing or delisting of a marine species, to "consult intergovernmental bodies having a function in relation to those species". The role and responsibility of FAO in this regard were debated and most representatives expressed the view that CITES must take direct responsibility for liaising with the appropriate intergovernmental body and that this responsibility should not be delegated to FAO. The FAO Secretariat indicated that it would be possible for FAO to fulfil a role in providing assistance and facilitating communication but that there would be problems associated with FAO being held responsible for this task. It would also not be appropriate in most cases for FAO to comment directly on the validity of proposals as they did not have the data or expertise to undertake this task and in such cases they could only refer to other organizations with the mandate and capacity to undertake such evaluations.
48. The representative of CITES stated that the CITES Secretariat attempted to comply with the requirements of Article XV and that on the whole it was successful in doing so. However, it was difficult for CITES to be fully informed of which intergovernmental bodies were involved with the species which could be proposed for listing and that FAO could provide valuable assistance in this regard. He also pointed out that CITES informed all CITES Parties of all listing proposals and suggested that the RFBs should take steps to ensure that their member countries notified them when they received a proposal falling within individual mandates of the RFBs.
49. The Chairperson of ACFR reminded the meeting of the need to have both effective criteria and an effective process in making decisions on listing and delisting. He suggested that the criteria needed to be improved, but that it would probably be impossible to develop criteria that would be suitable for all species and that an effective scientific evaluation process would also be required.
50. The Meeting suggested that communication within the parties involved in issues related to fisheries in CITES should be improved and that RFBs should, as much as possible, be involved in the work of CITES, particularly for those species falling under their jurisdiction, including species taken as by-catch.