This is my third CITES meeting and my first blog; both nerve-jangling experiences. Having only just arrived in Doha I had a lot of catching up to do on happenings from last week, and on what was about to happen today. The ever-changing Committee schedules and massive lists of items to be covered, I recall from earlier CoPs (Conference of the Parties), means you can never be sure exactly what will be happening from one hour to the next, writes Yvonne Sadovy, Co-Chair IUCN/SSC Groupers and Wrasses Specialist Group.
If you need to schedule side meetings or skip between Committee rooms you must stay on your toes. I was also soon to discover the free-flowing coffee and delicious sweets for the taking, which only the constant moving between well-spaced Committee rooms was to offset.
Delegates today were returning refreshed from a two-day break to face another batch of proposals in Committee I or a range of somewhat dry-sounding, but often interesting, items in Committee II. Discussions of the minutiae of defining exactly what is meant by a ‘hunting trophy’, the pros and cons associated with different ways of registering new or expanded breeding facilities for Appendix I species, and the threat of e-commerce to threatened species, all highlighted the challenges and realities of ensuring that CITES listings have the best possible chance of making a real difference. Proposals for several spiny-tailed lizards were discussed in Committee I: a proposal to move the Ornate spiny-tailed lizard from Appendix II to Appendix I was rejected, while three Honduran spiny-tailed iguanas, as well as the Guatemalan spiny-tailed iguana, were added to Appendix II.
There is always a buzz when controversial proposals are discussed, especially if they move to a vote. Such was the case with the proposal to list the coral family Corallidae on Appendix II when Tunisia moved for a secret ballot, supported, as it had to be, by at least 10 other Parties. The 30-second vote was very close and nowhere near the two-thirds majority needed for adoption. I watched some of the debate on one of the big screens that allow you to nip outside one Committee room and quickly check what is happening in the other without actually being there. During the Corallidae discussion, I was again struck by an argument that I had already heard several times for marine species: that the coral proposal should not be adopted because so many livelihoods depended on the species involved. Surely that misses the point, which is that livelihoods are even more threatened if the species in question is not managed sustainably. Appendix II of CITES is one powerful tool that aims to do just that.
By 5.30 pm I was up-to-date and hauling my bulging bag, full of leaflets, analyses and other paperwork, back to my hotel through the half ultra-modern city-half-building-site that is Doha. Another welcome opportunity to work off those calories and some time to start writing.