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CITES Conference strengthens international trade regime for wildlife

16 September 2019
Cites In The City


The triennial World Wildlife Conference, officially known as the 18th Conference of Parties (CoP18) to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), concluded on 28 August after adopting an extensive list of decisions which aim to advance the conservation and sustainable use of wildlife across the globe.

CITES Parties strengthened trade rules for dozens of species to ensure that international trade is legal and sustainable. These ranged from commercially valuable fish and trees to charismatic mammals such as giraffes and otters as well as amphibians and reptiles sold as exotic pets. For example, 18 more shark and ray species now have additional protection, including the little-known but highly unusual ‘Rhino Rays’ – threatened by the shark fin trade, these are currently the most endangered group of marine fish in the world.

The Conference highlighted several conservation success stories - for instance, a regional population of the llama-like vicuña in Argentina was downlisted as a result of the population’s recovery through sustainable use and responsible management. The Conference also adopted the CITES Strategic Vision Post-2020, positioning CITES as a leader in promoting transformative change; environmental, economic and social sustainability; and the achievement of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals.

Many countries lack the necessary dedicated resources to sustainably manage and conserve their wildlife. As part of on-going efforts to address this, the Conference adopted further decisions to promote capacity-building for CITES implementation, as well as other activities aimed at strengthening wildlife management and compliance with CITES trade rules.

There was also wide recognition of the critical role that local and indigenous communities that live on the frontlines of wildlife conservation play in the protection and sustainable management of nature. Overcoming a wide range of differing views, the Conference asked Parties to begin considering how best to engage local communities in CITES decision-making in a way that helps to further the objectives of the Convention.

“Humanity needs to respond to the growing extinction crisis by transforming the way we manage the world’s wild animals and plants. Business-as-usual is no longer an option,” said CITES Secretary-General Ivonne Higuero.

“CITES conserves our natural world by ensuring that international trade in wild plants and animals is legal, sustainable and traceable. Well-managed trade also contributes to human wellbeing, livelihoods and the achievement of the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals,” she said.

Neville Ash, Director of the UN Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC), added: “CITES has an incredibly important role to play in the conservation of the world’s animals and plants. In the wake of the recent IPBES assessment highlighting that one million species are at risk of extinction and that one of the main drivers of decline in biodiversity is overexploitation, the need to ensure that international wildlife trade is effectively regulated is more important than ever. The Convention’s emphasis on scientific evidence is one of its key strengths. At UNEP-WCMC, we are privileged to support science-based decisions through our management of the CITES Trade Database on behalf of the CITES Secretariat, and through the provision of science-policy advice and analyses. We look forward to continuing our work with the Convention to respond to the global extinction crisis.”

For more information on CoP18, please visit the CITES website.