Today, delegates are enjoying a well deserved break, some choosing to join a desert safari into the interior of Qatar, others doing a spot of bird-watching and some taking in the sights of Doha, such as the Old Souk and Islamic Centre. Fiji’s delegation escaped the heat of the city by taking a boat out into the Persian Gulf for some water sports and fishing – somewhat homesick for the Pacific islands perhaps! The two-day break is welcomed after the heated discussions in Committee I yesterday, writes Helen Pippard, Species Officer at IUCN Oceania and a member of the Fiji Delegation at CITES CoP15.
The USA’s proposal to put polar bears on Appendix I failed to receive the majority vote, due to Inuit arguments over the importance of hunting the animals for their livelihoods, and because many countries believe that the major threat to polar bears is habitat loss, rather than international trade. The afternoon saw some dramatic, yet brief discussions surrounding the hot topic of listing Atlantic blue fin tuna onto Appendix I of the Convention. A vote was called for before much of the scientific information had been presented, leading to closure of the debate earlier than most delegates anticipated. The proposal was overwhelmingly rejected, with only 20 of the 120 CITES Parties voting in favour of banning international trade in the species. Committee II continued with their discussions on trade in Asian big cats and rhinos, and these will come to a conclusion over the next few days. Also up for discussion after the weekend will be elephants, sharks and corals, promising more fireworks no doubt!
Fiji, along with other Pacific island Parties, will be joining the remaining discussions with interest. As small CITES Parties, the delegates of Oceania are looking to each other for support in what can be a confusing process and, as ever, are grateful for the guidance of big sisters Australia and New Zealand. Capacity building issues are still high on the agenda in the region, but it doesn’t stop the recognition of the importance of CITES in helping to conserve species in international trade. In fact, Palau announced to the Parties its intention of declaring its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) a shark sanctuary in order to ban commercial trade in these animals, whilst the Marshall Islands is attending CoP15 as an Observer, in order to learn more about the role that CITES could play in the small coral atoll country.