Fate of endangered animals in the hands of COP19 at CITES
November 15, 2022
The survival of many animals hangs in the balance as world governments
gathered at the 19th Conference of the Parties (CoP) of the Convention on
International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)
which began on Monday in Panama City.
In the first CITES meeting hosted in Latin America in 20 years, experts
from the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) are on-site
recommending greater protection from international trade for a range of
threatened species, from elephants, rhinos and sharks to tiny glass frogs.
The protection and conservation of many animals traded for their parts or
as live specimens will be affected by decisions taken by government
representatives of 183 member countries and the EU at CITES, IFAW said.
“CITES is a critical opportunity that only comes around once every three
years to put vital protections in place for some of the world’s most
vulnerable species,” said IFAW’s Deputy Vice President of Conservation,
“Since 1975, nations across the world have come together to protect
threatened species by regulating trade, establishing a framework for
countries to cooperate with each other to ensure that plant and animal
species are not depleted by international demand.
We applaud many of those critical efforts, and particularly the Latin
American region for its leading role as the world arrives in Panama City
A focal point of CoP19 are several historic proposals that would change the
face of shark conservation, placing nearly all shark species traded for
their fins and meat under CITES oversight and controls, up from only 25%
Led by the Government of Panama and already supported by 40 other nations,
proposal 37 calls for regulation in the trade of all requiem sharks, the
core of traded shark species that includes the Endangered grey reef shark,
beloved by scuba divers throughout the world, as well as species such as
the dusky shark where overfishing and the trade of fins has driven it to
the edge of extinction.
Additional proposals look to secure similar protection for small hammerhead
sharks (proposal 38) and guitar fishes (proposal 40)—flat-bodied relatives
Recent evidence reinforces the urgency of this action, with 37% of all
sharks and closely-related rays, and 70% of species traded for their fins
already at risk of extinction.
Sharks and rays are the second most threatened vertebrate group on the
planet after amphibians. Many requiem sharks are key predators on the
world’s coral reefs, but recent global surveys indicate that reef sharks
are functionally extinct on 20% of reefs, further jeopardizing the health
of these ecosystems that are already devastated by the impact of climate
“The astounding decline in global shark populations resulting from the
unsustainable global trade in shark fins threatens to push these
ecologically critical predators to extinction,” said Collis.
“The proposal by Panama and its partner governments offers a pivotal moment
for global leaders to turn the tide for sharks and define a clear pathway
for the survival of these species.”
IFAW’s headed to CoP19 with additional focus on wildlife crime, one of the
greatest threats to wildlife in biodiverse regions like Latin America.
Illegal wildlife trade, including cybercrime and what to do with live
animals seized in trade, present unique challenges for enforcement
agencies, and IFAW will be using the conference to promote best practices
to address these at the regional and international level.
As in previous CITES conference, elephant ivory and rhino horn trade will
again be contentious issues.
“However, this conference will see discussion of an alternative proposal by
Kenya for the development of a specialised fund for elephant conservation
in exchange for the destruction of ivory stockpiles.
“IFAW commends Kenya's effort to set a clear path away from ivory trade
while ensuring a sustainable alternative to the benefit of both elephants
and local communities,” IFAW said.
The 19th CITES Conference of the Parties started on Monday and is scheduled
to run until November 25.