CoP19 brought 100 species of sharks and rays, over 150 tree species, 160 amphibian species, 50 turtle and tortoise species, and several species of songbirds under CITES’ protection.
Yet, as one senior official pointed out, “more listings do not suggest good news for species protection, or biodiversity” as listings imply that a species is at risk enough to require protection.
The 19th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (CoP) to the Convention in International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) adopted 46 of the 52 proposals to amend the Convention’s Appendices to increase or decrease controls on international trade in wildlife and wildlife products.
According to the Earth Negotiations Bulletin (ENB) summary report of the meeting, these amendments “bring many species of sharks, lizards, turtles, fish, birds, frogs, and more than a hundred tree species under CITES control to ensure the sustainability of these species in the wild while allowing their international trade.” In addition, delegates adopted a record 365 decisions to advance protection of threatened wildlife species while at the same time allowing international trade.
The meeting took place at a critical moment. Several recent scientific reports and articles, the ENB notes, have underscored the urgency of halting and reversing biodiversity loss, highlighting overexploitation as one of the main threats to wild plants and animals worldwide, along with habitat loss and climate change. CITES is also approaching its 50th anniversary, which prompted its Secretary-General Ivonne Higuero to invite delegated to reflect on the Convention’s past and future and “on how well it had achieved its original goals.”
Hailed by many organizations in the conservation world as “a huge success,” CoP19 brought 100 species of sharks and rays, over 150 tree species, 160 amphibian species, 50 turtle and tortoise species, and several species of songbirds under CITES’ protection. Yet, as one senior official pointed out, “more listings do not suggest good news for species protection, or biodiversity” as listings imply that a species is at risk enough to require protection.
The ENB analysis of the meeting also notes that this CoP “saw a significant increase in the use of delays of implementation periods.” Under CITES, parties can request additional time beyond the usual 90-day entry into force to allow their domestic industry to acclimate to new regulations, before a species is fully protected. For example, “CoP 19 saw fit – at one party’s insistence – to implement an 18-month delay before restricting trade,” to allow for consultation with local communities. One observer expressed concern over “using Indigenous Peoples and local communities (IPLCs) as an excuse for extra time to stockpile specimens.”
The coming months will likely see significant changes in the global biodiversity agenda. The UN Biodiversity Conference (CBD COP 15) is expected to adopt a post-2020 biodiversity framework, and an agreement on marine biodiversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction (BBNJ) may be reached in early 2023. In this context, as the ENB pointes out, both CITES and its parties “will need to contend with the fact that they are not as atomized in their governance as they were when they started.”
Established in response to growing concerns that over-exploitation of wildlife through international trade was contributing to the rapid decline of many species of plants and animals around the world, CITES was signed by representatives from 80 countries in 1973, and entered into force in 1975. There are currently 184 parties to the Convention.
CoP19 took place from 14-25 November 2022 in Panama City, Panama. [ENB Coverage of CITES CoP19]