Contrary to what some are saying at the 15th Conference of Parties, CITES SHOULD protect marine species. Unfortunately at this meeting, Doha has been given the tag “No-ha,” as no marine species proposals have been accepted (we do have 8 species of sharks that have yet to be considered, so there is some hope). The discussions so far at this meeting have revolved around the question, “is CITES irrelevant and/or too hard to implement for marine species?” The answer is a resounding NO.
Contrary to the detractors, conservation of fish is NOT only about production; it is in fact also about preservation of species and marine ecosystems, and, because we’re talking about CITES, it also has to do with TRADE. Fish are some of the most heavily traded wildlife commodities in the world. Marine environments and wildlife matter just as much as land-based places and animals. Just because we can’t always see the fish - or the corals, for that matter - they’re still there, providing services to ecosystems as well as to people and industries). Extraction and trade matter equally in both wet and dry environments
As folks like Carl Safina have noted, we often refer to taking fish out of the ocean as a “harvest.” This implies that fish populations are somehow like fields of crops that we can completely harvest and replant. There are multiple examples where this approach and mindset have miserably failed the species and the communities that depend on them, cod and sturgeon for a start.
These examples have ended in tragic consequences for fishermen, ecosystems and communities. History and science has shown that we cannot just “harvest” as much fish as we want. And what about other marine species?
Think of precious corals that support some of the slowest-growing “fisheries” known to man. A recent study of Mediterranean and Pacific coral scientists found that: "given the nature of the [precious coral] exploitation, the terms ‘harvesting’ and ‘fishery’ inaccurately imply a renewal of the resource, which in reality rarely occurs. In management terms, the majority of fisheries can more precisely be characterized as ‘coral mining’. "
We have to manage what we take out of the ocean, leaving some for other species and allowing the fish and other organisms to play their role in the ecosystem.