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A16

AASSIIAA

FRIDAY,

MARCH

15,

2013

A16 A A S S I I A A FRIDAY, MARCH 15, 2013 Cites adds bite

Cites adds bite by listing sharks at risk

But effectiveness of trade body’s move depends on enforcement: Delegates

By NIRMAL GHOSH

INDOCHINA BUREAU CHIEF

BANGKOK – Five species of shark commonly killed by the millions to supply the trade in shark fins have been thrown a lifeline by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites). The historic listing to limit trade in the species came with a series of other votes to protect other species rendered endan- gered by exploitation too – includ- ing valuable and increasingly rare rosewood and ebony. On the other hand, a move to ban the hunting of polar bears was defeated, and endangered tigers barely got 15 minutes of time. But countries including the host, Thailand, were also threat- ened with sanctions if they did not improve their enforcement records on trade in ivory and rhi- no horn. Delegates called it an unprece- dented shift towards the protec- tion of species by a body that is essentially a trade regulator trying to strike a balance between money, politics and species surviv- al.

But they also sounded a note of caution, saying the protection measures were only as good as the paper they were written on if they were not implemented and en- forced stringently. Yesterday morning saw emotional scenes. China and Japan could not get enough votes to reopen a debate over the listing of white-tip sharks, prompting the huge hall to burst into ap- plause. Significantly, the move to pro- tect sharks and manta rays reached a critical tipping point be- cause of support from African, Middle Eastern and Latin Ameri- can countries. The constituency for the pro-

tection of sharks has expanded, driven by solid scientific research showing plummeting populations, public opinion, the media and in- creasingly by countries that de- rive significant tourism income from sharks and manta rays. One study, for instance, has es- timated that a population of the graceful manta ray at Kona, Ha- waii, generates US$3 million (S$3.8 million) to US$4 million a year in travel services. The assertiveness of African countries especially showed that they are less susceptible to pres- sure from rich countries offering aid, investment and other bargains in exchange for their votes, shark protection advocates said. This was a new, more inde- pendent Africa, with delegates backed by extensive briefings and armed with the latest research. The lifeline for sharks and man- ta rays is slender, however. Ja- pan-based Dr Shelley Clarke, one of the world’s foremost experts on the shark fin trade, said: “It is a first step. If it is fully implement- ed and everyone plays by the rules, it could have a big effect.” The effect on the shark fin mar- ket, if there is one at all, will take time to be felt. Most shark fin soups come from blue sharks, which are not protected by Cites. Yet at the current rate of re- moval – some 100 million a year for all species – the regulatory body is likely to see efforts to curb the trade in blue sharks as well, sooner rather than later. Shark fin demand has risen, but supplies have gone down – possibly because the saturation point had been reached and some populations were crashing, Dr Clarke has said. Delegates said the Cites meet- ing was good for marine species and timber species. Madagascar succeeded in hav-

species and timber species. Madagascar succeeded in hav- A fisherman carrying a hammerhead shark at a

A fisherman carrying a hammerhead shark at a beach near San Jose, Costa Rica, in April 2011. The 178-member Cites has finally agreed to restrict exports of the white-tip shark, the porbeagle shark, three types of hammerheads and the manta ray. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

ing dozens of valuable ebony spe- cies found only on the island, pro- tected. And in a new deterrent for poachers, Thailand can now ex- pect smuggled rosewood – over which a special team of rangers has had gunfights with illegal log- gers and smugglers – to be seized outside the country. The listings mean that essentially countries will be re- quired to regulate trade by issuing export permits. Ms Debbie Banks, a tiger cam- paigner for the Britain-based Envi- ronmental Investigation Agency and a veteran of several Cites con- ferences, told The Straits Times:

“People are saying the pendulum has shifted towards protection, but it is dangerous to be lulled in- to a false sense of security. ”It could easily swing back again.” nirmal@sph.com.sg

”It could easily swing back again.” nirmal@sph.com.sg Lifeline for some, no help for others WINNERS Dozens

Lifeline for some, no help for others

WINNERS Dozens of rosewood and ebony species from the tropics. Oceanic white-tip sharks The porbeagle shark Three types of hammerhead sharks The manta ray

LOSERS Polar bears. Up to 400 a year will continue to be hunted by native North Americans in Canada

IN THE BALANCE Elephants. An unprecedented slaughter of elephants, with the illegal ivory laundered through legal stocks, has challenged countries like Thailand and

legal stocks, has challenged countries like Thailand and TENSION REMAINS Poaching and trafficking of elephants,

TENSION REMAINS

Poaching and trafficking of elephants, tigers and rhinos is at crisis levels, yet domestic trade is still allowed and international trade in the body parts of these critically endangered animals is still being negotiated.

– UK-based Environmental Investigation Agency

negotiated. – UK-based Environmental Investigation Agency China to tighten up enforcement, something they will have to

China to tighten up enforcement, something they will have to prove in 2014 or face trade sanctions.

Rhinos. Also under tremendous pressure following a surge in demand in Vietnam and China, which along with Mozambique will also have to show action in cracking down or face sanctions. Meanwhile, discussion is spreading on the option of legalising trade in rhino horn which almost every expert believes will open the floodgates just as releasing a small stock of ivory in 2008 to China did.

Tigers. There are only 3,000 left in the wild, and the species got only 15 minutes at Cites. But the meeting did agree that reporting on enforcement measures was inadequate.

the species got only 15 minutes at Cites. But the meeting did agree that reporting on
the species got only 15 minutes at Cites. But the meeting did agree that reporting on
the species got only 15 minutes at Cites. But the meeting did agree that reporting on
the species got only 15 minutes at Cites. But the meeting did agree that reporting on
the species got only 15 minutes at Cites. But the meeting did agree that reporting on
the species got only 15 minutes at Cites. But the meeting did agree that reporting on
the species got only 15 minutes at Cites. But the meeting did agree that reporting on
the species got only 15 minutes at Cites. But the meeting did agree that reporting on
the species got only 15 minutes at Cites. But the meeting did agree that reporting on
the species got only 15 minutes at Cites. But the meeting did agree that reporting on
the species got only 15 minutes at Cites. But the meeting did agree that reporting on
the species got only 15 minutes at Cites. But the meeting did agree that reporting on
the species got only 15 minutes at Cites. But the meeting did agree that reporting on
the species got only 15 minutes at Cites. But the meeting did agree that reporting on