During the week of April 20 to 24, Species Programme represented IUCN at the 24th CITES Animals Committee meeting which was held in Geneva, Switzerland. Animals Committee meetings are designed to provide scientific advice and guidance to the Parties of CITES and the Secretariat to assist in their decision-making on species issues.
During the meeting a number of different issues were discussed. One of the most prominent was Indo-Pacific Bottlenose Dolphins, Tursiops aduncus, in the Solomon Islands. At AC23 in 2008, Israel had proposed that these dolphins be admitted into the Review of Significant Trade due to concerns about the amount of trade occurring compared to population size. The Cetacean Specialist Group was asked to conduct an independent workshop to investigate population data and determine a methodology for rigorous assessment and this was done in August 2008. The results of the workshop were presented at the Animals Committee meeting and after much discussion it was decided that the dolphins would go into the Review of Significant Trade because of concerns about the extent of trade compared to an indicated low population size. The Secretariat would also advise the Solomon Islands to adopt a more conservative export quota.
Sharks also figured significantly at the meeting, with IUCN’s Shark Specialist Group attending, represented by Sarah Fowler and Patricia Charvet-Almeida. One of the agenda items focused on activities regarding shark species of concern. The SSC Shark Specialist Group assisted the working group in identifying key shark species of concern for possible listing under CITES and recommending that Parties improve data collection, management and conservation for these. Some of these species included freshwater stingrays, sawfishes, guitarfishes and hammerhead sharks. A workshop was also held on freshwater stingrays where the shortage of data from many range States on the level of commercial exploitation was discussed. Parties were asked to note this information and consider implementing or reinforcing national regulations to address the issues. Another agenda item that was discussed relating to sharks was illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing as outlined in a report written by TRAFFIC. The meeting agreed that IUU fishing is an important issue and that improved data and tracking of products is required.
Several other species were discussed and admitted to the Review of Significant Trade, meaning that their trade levels will be investigated further by the CITES Secretariat, to ensure that trade impacts upon the species are not too great, thus leading to declines (in other words, that a non-detriment finding can be assured). Two species of African cranes, Grey-crowned and Black-crowned Cranes (Balearica regulorum and Balearica pavonina), were put into the Review of Significant Trade after a very thorough document was submitted by members of the SSC Crane Specialist Group showing increased trade and population declines of these species. The Beluga or European Sturgeon (Huso huso) was also included in the Review of Significant Trade primarily because the major exporting countries had not provided a response to the request for information that came from the previous Animals Committee meeting.
Other species that were discussed during the meeting include the Mantellas, several of which were reviewed for 2009 Madagascar trade quotas. IUCN made a number of interventions updating CITES parties on the threat status of these species to inform the discussion. Source code ‘R’ was also discussed, the code relating to ranching of species – particularly crocodiles, and the Animals Committee recommended that a new definition be adopted based on that used by the Crocodile Specialist Group and relating to Appendix II species. Finally, the Animals Committee reviewed a paper which the Secretariat wrote which suggested recommendations for the sustainable use and management of sea cucumber fisheries. This document was considered by the Animals Committee and a recommendation was passed advising that it be further developed using information from FAO and brought forward to CoP15.