CITES 2013: Shark and manta protection hangs in the balance

CITES corruption 2013

As reported on Monday, the delegates of CITES delivered an excellent result for shark conservation. To recap, 5 species of shark and both manta species were added to Appendix II, which gives them some protection by signifying that although they are, “not necessarily threatened with extinction” but “trade must be controlled in order to avoid utilization incompatible with their survival.” There is a mechanism at the Conference of the Parties that gives delegates the opportunity to force a re-vote at the final Plenary session, the results of which are then binding.

The shark and manta proposals are understandably unpopular with the shark trading nations, which are largely led by Japan and China. Over the last two days there has been an obvious attempt by them to bribe, lobby and cajole smaller countries into reversing their positions. Georgienne Bradley of the Sea Save Foundation has posted video shot in Bangkok earlier tonight that shows Japanese delegates at a “secret meeting” (as the observers were told when they asked) with delegates from several African countries.

The original vote was very close, with the proposals barely getting the two-thirds majority needed. It is interesting to note that in the case of the oceanic whitetip, if the delegates shown in the video were to reverse their earlier yes votes, the proposal will founder. If this occurs at the Plenary tomorrow, it should force the question of whether CITES is now defunct as a conservation body, and if we can rely on it to make decisions that are in the best interests of the environment. The free dinners in Bangkok tonight may result in the decimation of several shark species. I hope they were worth it. (Images by Michael Aw)