Reports on Trade and Underwater Visual Census (updated March 2013)

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is an international agreement between governments which aims to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.

The Humphead (Napoleon) wrasse, Cheilinus undulatus, was listed on Appendix II of CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) in October of 2004. It was listed because it is considered to be actually or potentially threatened by current exploitation levels or disturbances if these persist.

A adult, B juvenile/sub-adult Credit Pat Colin

A adult, B juvenile/sub-adult Credit Pat Colin

Photo: A adult, B juvenile/sub-adult Credit Pat Colin

Young Humphead wrasse on sale outside restaurant in southern China

13th January, 2006 - in Hong Kong, the major importer of the Humphead wrasse, a local meeting was jointly held between the Agriculture, Conservation and Fisheries Department of the Hong Kong government and the IUCN GWSG (Proceedings for HHW workshop). The purpose of the workshop was to raise awareness in Hong Kong regarding the Appendix II listing, and on associated local legislation on possession of the Humphead wrasse that has been drafted. The workshop also sought the input and views of traders of this species to learn how they would be affected and to collect their opinions on the implications of the listing.

 The species was originally proposed for Appendix II at CoP 12. It was adopted by consensus at CoP13. The CoP13 proposal can be accessed. The FAO (United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization) ad hoc Advisory Panel on commercially exploited aquatic species being proposed for Appendices I and II at CoP13, assessed the proposal prior to CoP13 and agreed that it was consistent with Appendix listing criteria.

Following the Appendix II listing in October 2004, several initiatives were developed to raise awareness about the listing and also to collect additional information on trade and natural densities relevant to the development of Non-Detriment Findings (i.e. a sustainable management plan) for the species in Indonesia, the major exporting country for this species. For NDF report and stock assessment see ‘Stock Assessment Approach…..’ 2007 with accompanying interactive model which allows each country to tailor fit local conditions.

December 2004 - a project was initiated by the IUCN SSC Groupers and Wrasses Specialist Group (GWSG) working together with the government of Indonesia CITES Scientific and Management Authorities and Fisheries divisions. The project was funded by the CITES Secretariat with ongoing work supported by National Marine Fisheries Service and University of Hong Kong.

Indonesia is a major exporter of the Humphead wrasse, and the project, which consists of trade surveys and underwater visual census work in Indonesia, was designed to assist the government to develop its non-detriment findings. TRAFFIC-Southeast Asia (T-SEA) conducted the trade surveys with IUCN, and the IUCN Groupers & Wrasses Specialist Group has been working with LIPI ((Indonesian Institute of Sciences) on underwater underwater visual census surveys which provide information relevant to NDF deliberations. Both aspects of the initial project have been completed and reports are ready. UVC work is ongoing (see below).


Beijing restaurant by Michael Fabinyi

Beijing restaurant by Michael Fabinyi

Photo: Michael Fabinyi

15th and 16th February, 2006 – a national level workshop held in Jakarta hosted by LIPI (Indonesian Institute of Sciences) and co-organized with T-SEA, assisted by the IUCN-GWSG. The workshop is on Trade dynamics and population status of Napoleon Wrasse, Cheilinus undulatus, in Indonesia and its purpose is to enable a preliminary presentation of trade and UVC data collected (see first bullet above) and to identify remaining data and information gaps (Jakarta meeting objectives).

5th - 7th June, 2006 – regional meeting held in Hong Kong and co-organized by WWF-HK, IUCN-GWSG, AFCD, CITES and TRAFFIC to discuss management options for the Humphead wrasse. In particular, the possibility of adopting a regionally consistent approach, based on the work in Indonesia (see above bullet), to managing this species will be addressed. Attendees should include the CITES Scientific and Management Authorities of key exporting countries in SE Asia, representatives from fishery divisions, FAO and other relevant organizations. (Check June 2006 report)

3rd and 4th June, 2010 – regional meeting held in Bali, Indonesia. Workshop Report entitled: Workshop Report on the Trade of Cheilinus undulatus (Humphead Wrasse / Napoleon Wrasse) & CITES implementation. Powerpoint Presentation (Part I, II, III & IV).

18 September 2012 – As part of the information-gathering on IUU of HHW being conducted by the CITES Secretariat Working Group, a short meeting was held in Jakarta attended by CITES authorities from Malaysia, Indonesia and Philippines – the major exporting countries for the species (although exports from the Philippines are technically illegal for any CITES II fish). Recommendations are provided in the “Report of Supplementary Meeting to Inform the Humphead wrasse IUU Working Group September 18th, 2012”. The issue of IUU for HHW is on the agenda for CoP 16 in Bangkok. CoP16 Doc. 62: Humphead wrasse. 

Ongoing work on field abundance, IUU and NDF status – currently (2013) Indonesia has an export quota of 1800 fish and Malaysia has a zero export quota. Indonesia is conducting further field work in relation to NDF.

Trade surveys have recently been conducted in Mainland China indicating IUU across borders and the presence of undocumented HHW in retail and wholesale. "Trade of the humphead wrasse (Cheilinus undulatus) in mainland China" Min Liu (2013) Xiamen University. WWF has also conducted a trade survey with similar findings.

Field surveys conducted by LIPI, some in collaboration with the IUCN GWSG, initially covered 7 sites selected as baseline studies and used for the FAO NDF work in Indonesia for population abundance. Four of these sites have now been resurveyed with increased densities noted at each site. Most fish are in their juvenile phase but the increase in numbers is extremely encouraging and has occurred in areas where fishing pressure has evidently declined since the original surveys were conducted 4-5 years ago. Reports are forthcoming.

Humphead Wrasse (Cheilinus undulatus)
Reports on Trade and Underwater Visual Census