CITES conference in Geneva: Swiss delegation takes stock

Bern, 28.08.2019 - The 18th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) ended in Geneva on 28 August. The Swiss delegation's overall assessment is generally positive. Switzerland's proposal on international trade in marine ornamental fish was accepted and the trade's sustainability will now be reviewed.

The 183 Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) met in Geneva from 14 to 28 August. The participants discussed dozens of proposals to strengthen or relax the protection of plants and animals. Mathias Lörtscher, head of the Swiss delegation, is generally satisified with the outcome: "The conference showed that CITES works. Most of the decisions were adopted by the Parties by means of a consensus. Where this was not possible, decisions were taken by vote."

In line with Switzerland's wishes, the conservation status of elephants was maintained and there was no relaxation of the rules for trading in ivory. Regulations are to be introduced on trade in giraffes from all populations, since giraffe numbers are plummeting in certain regions. Switzerland would have preferred a slightly more differentiated solution here, as the existing populations in southern Africa do not meet the criteria for inclusion in the CITES Appendices. The Swiss delegation successfully committed to deeper research into Boswellia species (tree species used to extract resin for incense), the facilitation of trade in certain species of wood, and the use of modern electronic procedures for the issuing of CITES permits.

Review of international trade in ornamental fish

A Swiss proposal for an analysis of sustainable trade in marine ornamental fish was also adopted. Mathias Lörtscher is pleased: "The adoption of this proposal is important. An analysis of international trade in marine ornamental fish will show whether or not trade in certain species or groups of ornamental fish is sustainable." Trade in ornamental fish is virtually unregulated at present. Of over 2,000 species affected, only three are regulated by CITES.

The Swiss delegation is disappointed that the conference once again failed to address the legitimate concerns of several Southern African States which have distinguished themselves by undertaking successful conservation work. As in the case of Namibia, for example, where the authorities have had great success in rebuilding the white rhino population.

The newly adopted amendments to the Appendices will be ratified in the coming three months. The approved proposals, including the analysis of the ornamental fish trade, will determine the working agenda for the next three years. The next CITES conference will be held in 2022.

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