In a shocking turn of events, the CITES parties reversed their earlier (GOOD, SOUND) decision to list porbeagle sharks, prized for their meat, under CITES Appendix II. No ban, just sound management measures in place for trade to be allowed. Obviously, this was clearly a crazy idea, once countries had a day or so to think about it, and so today in plenary, the vote was reversed. 84 were in favour of protection, 46 against and 10 abstentions. (You need 2/3rds majority for a vote to pass). The only other time this has happened was the red and pink coral vote at CoP14. Industry groups were thrilled that time, and now this time. The Japanese Fishing Association sitting in front of me broke into applause.
But let's look at it this way - many, many countries were in support of this proposal. More countries were in support of porbeagle protection, red and pink coral protection and hammerhead protection than they were against. That makes me proud of all those countries who considered the science and found it was sound, and pushed 'yes' for these species (on a related note, SeaWeb's Melanie Siggs pointed out to me that it's so odd to be voting on these species, as if we own them, and I agree). We now have to hold these industries and regulatory bodies responsible. ICCAT made a statement that said something along the lines of 'we base our decisions on sound science, we now have a clear mandate to conserve bluefin tuna." (Picture above.) When did you NOT, ICCAT? We'll be watching, and we'll be back at CoP16 if things don't start to turn around.
In the meantime, we must, as consumers, refuse to purchase red and pink coral, bluefin tuna, and none of you better be ordering any shark fin soup. There is simply no guarantee that the trade in these species is at all sustainable. Right now we need to take the precautionary approach. It's an interesting concept, countries-opposed-to-CITES-listings-for-marine species. You might want to consider it. And for the umpteenth time, these App II proposals for sharks and corals would not have been a ban on trade (the bluefin App I proposal, which DOES ban international trade, was much-deserved and needed). Perhaps if we had heeded Sweden's 19992 proposal to list Atlantic bluefin under Appendix I, we would not be where we are now. And trade in red and pink corals, for example, could have continued under Appendix II. Now it continues, regardless, unchecked and unregulated....and unsustainable - for these species and the people that depend on them.