7. Following the invitation of the Chairman to provide general comments, the Deputy General-Secretary of CITES (Secretariat for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) expressed his appreciation for the opportunity provided by the Technical Consultation for CITES to collaborate with FAO on its important initiative to review the CITES listing criteria. He recalled that the original Bern Criteria had been difficult to apply objectively and after several years of consultation, new biological criteria were unanimously adopted at the Fort Lauderdale meeting (CoP9) of 1994 (CITES Resolution Conf. 9.24). A major output of that meeting was agreement that the new criteria should be kept under continuous review and a formal review protocol was adopted by CITES in Nairobi at their 11th CoP. He expressed the hope that FAO would participate actively in the review which would start with the first meeting of the CITES Criteria Working Group to be held in August 2000, in Australia.
8. The Secretariat then introduced document FI:SLC/2000/2, which was to form the basis of discussions during the Consultation. During lengthy debate, the following points were raised for consideration:
9. Several delegations suggested that discussions should be held to explore the relationship between CITES and FAO on issues related to CITES listing. In particular these should identify means by which FAO might assist CITES in developing criteria appropriate for use in aquatic species exploited by fisheries, and how CITES might complement FAO's efforts towards implementation of the Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries and the International Plans of Action (IPOAs). In this connection, the role of member States and the regional fishery management bodies, some of which had already put in place systems of trade management, in ensuring responsible fisheries management was specifically highlighted.
10. It was suggested that too much emphasis was placed on the significance of trade as a factor threatening extinction and that other factors of threat needed to be considered as well.
11. Concern was expressed that the time available to the Technical Consultation might be insufficient to accomplish the task before it and that additional expert consultations might be required. In addressing this issue, the FAO Secretariat indicated that this had not been contemplated by COFI when agreeing on the Programme of Work and resources for such additional meetings could be difficult to locate.
12. Some delegations expressed the view that CITES could provide a useful instrument, complementary to traditional fisheries management, in protecting fishery resources from extinction and in promoting their sustainable use. Other delegations expressed doubts about the role that CITES should play in this context and that it could be better taken care of by other instruments. In the case that CITES were to be complementary to traditional fisheries management, several factors were identified by the Consultation that would support CITES in this task:
13. The Consultation carefully examined the proposed wording of the criteria for the listing of commercially-exploited aquatic species in Appendix I. With regard to Criterion A on population size, it noted the difficulties in defining sub-populations and in setting quantitative lower threshold levels that would be universally applicable because of the great heterogeneity of the species within the scope of the Consultation in reproduction, growth, migration and other aspects. On the other hand, the Consultation noted the uncertainty associated with any estimation of population sizes of these species in absolute units. For this reason, the Consultation agreed that the Criterion should not contain quantified guidance on threshold levels and that these should be included, where appropriate, in an annex. It also agreed that relative levels or ratios might be more appropriate than absolute numbers.
14. It was noted that the figures of 500 to 5 000 individuals referred to in the CITES Guidelines and established through population viability modelling could provide in many instances a good basis for determining a threshold level for specific species and taxonomic groupings provided that these figures were scaled according to their particular biological characteristics (e.g. life history, taxonomic group), ecological settings, degree of exposure to human impacts and level of uncertainty. The Consultation agreed that abundance levels should preferably refer to mature individuals with reasonable opportunity to reproduce. It was also suggested that reproductive potential could be a useful measure. It noted however that methods for quantifying reproductive potential needed to be agreed upon and specified.
15. It recommended that more work needed to be undertaken toward providing sound technical guidelines on the processes and methodologies for the quantification of threshold levels.
16. The issue of verification and validation of population numbers was also noted by the Consultation as a critical area. Concern was expressed about the Criteria A iii) and iv) given the high natural variability in numbers and in degree of aggregation in many aquatic populations.
17. The Consultation noted that Criterion B on geographic distribution and fragmentation of populations and sub-populations posed analogous difficulties in the setting of universal quantitative thresholds for areas of distribution as with Criterion A, because of the heterogeneity of the species with the scope of the Consultation, their environment and the nature and extent of human impacts on them. It was also pointed out that estimating distribution area could be problematic. The Consultation agreed that the rate of change in geographic distribution and in degree of fragmentation was often of greater relevance than absolute quantitative estimates.
18. It recommended that guidelines be developed on the process and methods for establishing threshold levels for specific species and taxonomic groupings under Criterion B.
19. The Consultation recognized the conceptual and practical problems of applying the decline Criterion C to harvested resources, principally because of the inherent difficulty of distinguishing between natural fluctuations in the size of populations and sub-populations and the impact of harvesting and of other human activities. Guidelines were needed on the procedures and methods to determine quantitative decline thresholds for specific species and taxonomic groupings. While different views were expressed on whether this Criterion should be made subsidiary to Criteria A and B, as proposed in FI:SLC/2000/2, there was agreement on the need to consider all Criteria in a holistic and consistent manner.
20. There was agreement that the existing guidelines for declines under Criterion C of 50% and 20% were, in general, not appropriate for the species within the scope of the Consultation. It was also suggested that, if using Criterion C, consideration needed to be given to whether or not the decrease in the population was being managed.
21. In relation to Criterion C, the Consultation noted the practical difficulties and uncertainties of measuring population sizes over time, including in situations where population assessments were heavily dependent on accurate catch reporting. Illegal, unregulated and unreported harvesting activities could greatly compromise the ability of producing reliable population estimates.
22. Both existing Criterion D and the criterion "New D" as proposed in FI:SLC/2000/2 addressed the question of the probability that a resource might meet the conditions to be listed in Appendix I in the future. No views were presented by the Consultation on the existing Criterion D.
23. There was widespread disagreement with the suggestion in document FI:SLC/2000/2 that this proposed criterion New D might be used as the basis for signalling an "intention to list", which would be inconsistent with CITES procedures. Some delegates expressed the view that, if at all pursued, this criterion should be the one primarily used for evaluation of proposals for listing in the standard manner.
24. The Consultation noted the following positive features of the proposed Criterion New D:
25. It also expressed the following concerns and reservations:
26. An observer stated that their experience indicated that substantial difficulties could be encountered in application of a criterion of this nature as a result of the wide range of models and assumptions which could be used to estimate it, possibly generating very different estimates of status.
27. Overall, there was some support for attempting to develop a new criterion based on the concepts in the "New D" criterion, but it was agreed that this would have to be pursued carefully.