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The role and mechanisms of CITES

7. The principal purpose of CITES is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival. CITES does this through providing a legislative and regulatory framework for international co-operation in controlling trade[1] in wildlife species listed in Appendices I, II and III of the Convention.

8. The principal decision-making body is the Conference of the Parties (CoP), which is required to meet regularly. To facilitate implementation of the Convention between meetings of the Conference of the Parties, a Standing Committee has been established and three technical committees have also been established; the Animals Committee, Plants Committee and Nomenclature Committee. Implementation is further enhanced through the adoption of resolutions and decisions.

9. Proposals to amend Appendices I and II require a two-thirds majority of the Parties present and voting at a meeting of the CoP[2]. Resolution Conf 9.24 (Rev. CoP12) resolves that, when considering proposals to amend the Appendices, the views, if any, of intergovernmental organizations with competence for the management of the species concerned should be taken into account. Any Party can unilaterally include a species in Appendix III at any time, however Parties have been requested first to consult widely with any other range States and the Plants and Animals Committees before including a species in Appendix III. A listing Party can also unilaterally remove that species from Appendix III.

CITES, FAO and commercially-exploited aquatic species

10. FAO has been actively involved in CITES in relation to commercially-exploited aquatic species since the ninth meeting of the CITES CoP in 1994 (Resolution Conf. 9.17 on sharks). Following this, a proposal was made at the tenth Meeting of the CoP for the creation of a CITES working group for marine fisheries. In response to the concerns of some FAO Members that the CITES criteria and evaluation process might not be appropriate to deal with exploited and managed fishery resources, a process of work and engagement by FAO with CITES was subsequently initiated. This work has focused primarily on the CITES listing criteria and the scientific evaluation of listing proposals. Good progress has been made in these areas and, pending decisions to be made at CoP 13 in October 2004, a number of important recommendations proposed by FAO will be incorporated into the CITES revised listing criteria.

11. The term “commercially-exploited aquatic species” in relation to CITES has been agreed within FAO to encompass “resources exploited by fisheries in marine and large freshwater bodies”. In relation to the taxa “there was full support for considering invertebrate and fish species, although some countries requested that all exploited aquatic species including marine mammals should also be considered where appropriate”[3]. On the basis of those discussions, this Expert Consultation focused on fish and invertebrate species.

12. Commercially-exploited aquatic species make substantial contributions to food security, employment and income generation in many countries. The desire to minimize unnecessary or inappropriate negative impacts on those contributions was an important factor giving rise to the agreed terms of reference for this Consultation. The two case studies discussed at the Consultation give some indication of the social and economic importance of fisheries in general. Queen conch Strombus gigas listed in CITES Appendix II, is currently harvested commercially in approximately 25 countries and dependent territories throughout the Caribbean region. In Jamaica alone, the annual Queen Conch landings for 1998 were estimated to be worth around US$ 15-20 million making it economically Jamaica’s most valuable fishery and it creates employment for 3 000 people. The Sturgeons Acipenseriformes, listed in Appendix II, occur in Europe, North America and East Asia. There are ten range states fishing for sturgeon on the Black and Caspian Seas. The wholesale value of caviar and sturgeon flesh from the Caspian Sea range states in 2003 was approximately US$ 60-65 million and, in the Islamic Republic of Iran alone, more than 2 000 people were employed in the fishery and directly related activities (pers. comm. M. Pourkazemi).

[1] Trade under CITES is defined as import, export, re-export and introduction from the sea.
[2] There is also provision for decisions on amendment proposals to be taken by postal vote.
[3] FAO. 2000. Report of the Technical Consultation on the Suitability of the CITES Criteria for Listing Commercially-exploited Aquatic Species, Rome, Italy, 28-30 June 2000. FAO Fisheries Report No. 629. FAO, Rome.

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