Well, it’s St. Patrick’s Day in Qatar and, frankly, I wasn’t expecting much in the way of celebration. However, Committee 1 had a decidedly ‘green’ ambiance as the Chair began discussions on the plants proposed for listing changes on the CITES Appendices, writes Sue Mainka, Head of IUCN's Science and Learning.
Several of the proposals were prepared by the government of Madagascar and Parties agreed that they needed to be considered together and that more information was needed before they could take a decision on them so these items went off for a side discussion with results to be communicated to the Committee in due course. Meanwhile, proposals on two timber species, Aniba and Bulnesia, were adopted by consensus.
If I’m being cynical, the highlight of today was definitely the official removal of the domestic dog from the CITES Appendices. Through a quirk of taxonomy, the dog (scientific name Canis lupus familiaris), which is a subspecies of the wolf, ended up being a regulated species in CITES. Did you know that you were supposed to get a permit for your dog every time it crossed a border? Clearly a ridiculous exercise, so Switzerland submitted a proposal to officially take domestic dogs out of CITES regulation, along with the Australian dingo. About time, you say. Indeed, some fairly pedantic things do fill CITES agendas occasionally.
On the other hand, today was also the day that discussions on more tricky, complex issues began. Parties opened a continuing discussion on the topic of ‘Introduction from the Sea’. CITES operates as a cooperative action between an exporting and an importing country. For regulated species, the exporting country must first determine that the trade is not going to threaten the survival of the species and issue a statement to that effect – in CITES-speak this is called a Non-detriment Finding. But what do they do when the origin of the specimen in trade is the high seas where no one country is sovereign and is in a position to make such a determination? That is exactly the question that must be answered for many of the marine species that CITES is currently considering for listing and regulation. The debate is over whether or not the ‘exporting country’ should be the ‘flag state’ or the country that governs the vessel that lands the fish or the ‘port state’ namely the first port of call for the fish. So far, the UN Convention of Law of the Sea has opted for ‘flag states’ while recognizing that cooperation with the ‘port states’ will be crucial to ensure full compliance with the requirements. But CITES Parties remain undecided. For the last few Conferences of the Parties there have been many discussions on this issue but no decision. Without a decision, it will be very hard for CITES to implement any listings of marine species so here’s hoping that COP15 will be the time and place for such decisions.
Tomorrow it is likely that the real fireworks will begin. The morning will start with consideration of the polar bear proposals and we have been promised the tuna debate as well. Stay tuned – some really interesting discussions are just ahead.