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Wednesday, July 12, 2006

What is CITES and how does it work?

KyK-ers, this is the first of some environmental pieces which I hope to serve up in my column.

This one is a Stabroek News reject. Not relevant enough to the local wild-life trade.

Most likely too boring as well but they were too nice to say so.

Anyhow Jonathan the Bratt ain’t paying me yet so you gotta tek what you get…


If trees could have the right to not be smuggled, what about poor parrots and snakes?

Do I have that right?

Not as young as I used to be.

(To be honest with you, the o-word has been used on me.)

No representation is being made here for crapauds and toads.

(Picking up for snakes was bad enough)

Remind me to tell you about that old reprobate of a lion who is living at the expense of Guyanese taxpayers and never had the decency to keep his private life private. No wonder she left him, rather finally.

See how God does work?

I have pictures! Ssh, don’t tell anybody. He got big teeth.

Besides he was just trying to impress me with his prowess.

(guessed that I have a weakness for Lions)

Elizabeth a….

What is CITES and how does it work?

by F. Elizabeth Alleyne

In the past two years, various issues surrounding trade in Guyana’s wild fauna have come to the fore and public attention has been drawn to the existence of CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. But what exactly is CITES, what is its relevance to Guyana’s wildlife, how does it regulate trade, and to what end?

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, CITES, is an agreement between a current total of 166 states, referred to as Contracting Parties, to abide by a specified set of rules and procedures designed to control global trade in wild species of animals and plants and their parts or derivatives. While CITES is usually seen as a conservation treaty, established for the preservation of wild flora and fauna, it is primarily a trade treaty though its mandate is to limit and control such trade.

The rationale for the Convention

The Convention was signed in 1973 by an initial grouping of 80 states. It resulted from growing awareness during the 1960’s on the part of governments, environmental groups and concerned individuals of the value of the diverse animal and plant species which were rapidly moving towards extinction due to destruction of their natural habitats and to over-exploitation by humans.

International trade, particularly from countries of the South where such species abounded to consumer states of the North, was growing at an exponential rate which often exceeded the rate at which the populations of wild species were able to replicate themselves. It was therefore recognized that such trade, if left unchecked, would eventually threaten the viability of the wild flora and fauna of the range states. It was obvious too that regulations to prevent over-exploitation through trade would need to be adopted on a widely multi-lateral basis.

The resulting treaty in which signatory states bind themselves to follow the rules agreed upon by all the parties does not however have an impact upon the domestic laws of these states. Consequently, the Contracting Parties have to implement domestic legislation in order to fulfill their treaty obligations.

How it works

The states party to the Convention were committed to ensuring that their sovereignty was not eroded by it and as such the guiding principle central to its formulation was that the Contracting Parties are the best protectors of their own flora and fauna. The application of controls agreed upon by the Parties therefore hinges upon a system of licensing by designated Management Authorities in each state. Each signatory state is also required to appoint a Scientific Authority to advise the Management Authority as to the level of trade that could be engaged in without a detrimental effect upon the particular species.

Guyana acceded to the Convention in May of 1977 and became bound by it in August of 1977. Operational aspects of the implementation of CITES regulations in Guyana are currently handled by the Guyana Wildlife Division which was placed under the Environmental Protection Agency, EPA, in late 2005. Decision-making is conducted by a Management Authority and Scientific Authority set up in accordance with Convention rules.

The designated Management Authority, which oversees operations of the Division and issues licences and permits, consists of a Board comprised of officials of the Division, representatives from the EPA, the Police and the University of Guyana, and headed by a Chairman.

The Scientific Authority, also a Committee of individuals, advises on levels of sustainable trade, sets quotas, and commissions experts to conduct the Non-Detriment studies required by Convention rules.

The issuance of export licences and permits by the Management Authority is subject to rules laid out in the Convention and these vary according to categories of species as listed in each of three appendices.

Appendix I species

Species which are threatened with imminent extinction are listed in Appendix I of the Convention. Commercial trade in these species, whether alive or dead and including their parts or derivatives, is prohibited and other trade is allowed only where certain extenuating factors exist. Where trade is allowed permits have to be issued by both the exporting and importing states.

Import permits can only be issued where the state is satisfied that the specimen would be used for a non-commercial purpose which would not endanger survival of the species and, if the specimen is alive, that it will be kept in an appropriate environment where it will receive proper care.

An export permit can only be issued for an Appendix I specimen if an import permit has been issued, if the Scientific Authority advises that such export will not be detrimental to survival of the species, and if the exporter can prove that the specimen was obtained in accordance with the domestic laws governing its capture or harvest.

In addition, for live specimen, the potential exporter needs to prove that the physical process of transporting it to its intended destination will not involve any injury or cruelty. Local species listed in Appendix I of the Convention include the jaguar, the harpy eagle and the giant otter.

Appendix II

Article IV of the Convention sets out the requirements for trade in species listed in Appendix II of the Convention. Species of wild flora and fauna listed in Appendix II are those which, though not immediately faced with the threat of extinction, need to be accorded protection to ensure that existing stocks are not severely depleted.

For this category, the Convention does not mandate the issuance of import licences but export permits may be issued only if the Scientific Authority of the state advises that export will not negatively impact upon the survival of the species and the Management Authority is satisfied that the specimen was legally obtained.

If the specimen is alive, the same requirements for safe transportation apply as for Appendix I species. Most exports from Guyana of Appendix II species are of birds and reptiles.

Permits for re-export of both Appendix I and Appendix II specimen are only issued if the original importation was done in accordance with Convention rules. In the case of introduction of specimen from the sea, this must be authorized by a Certificate from the Management Authority.

Appendix III

Species listed in Appendix III are those which are included by one or more Contracting Parties who wish to have particular species of their flora or fauna accorded special protection by other Parties to the Convention. Export of these species from the range state follows rules for Appendix II species. For export from other states the Management Authority of the state must issue a certificate of origin.

Exceptions to the rules

The Contracting Parties are allowed to make certain exceptions to the rules of the Convention especially in cases where species are in transit, where they form part of a travelling exhibition or where the Management Authority certifies that the specimen was acquired before the provisions of the Convention applied to it.

Exceptions are also made, in certain circumstances, for specimen considered to be personal effects, specimen to be used for scientific research, fauna bred in captivity and for artificially propagated flora.

The quota system

In order to ensure that exports of species are not detrimental to their survival, the Scientific Authorities of exporting states often determine the maximum numbers of particular species which can be exported within a particular year. The CITES Secretariat is informed of the level of these quotas which are then utilized by the Management Authorities in the issuance of permits.

In some instances, where the species concerned is considered to be particularly threatened but the range state successfully lobbies to be allowed to engage in some level of trade, the quotas are set by the Conference of the Parties and often are accompanied by other restrictions as to the type of trade thus allowed.

Tightening the controls – the significant trade process

Autonomy of the parties in the regulation of trade in their flora and fauna was at the heart of the formulation of CITES rules, in particular the formulation of Article IV which regulates trade in Appendix II species. Implementation of Article IV was therefore entirely dependent upon the political will and implementation capability of the exporting states.

It soon became apparent, however, that this complete autonomy of the states was leading to unsustainable levels of trade in these species and that many were becoming threatened with extinction. As more and more species became eligible for inclusion on Appendix I, the entire raison d’etre of the Convention became subject to debate since it appeared to be an elaborate administrative arrangement for overseeing the process of extinction.

This led to unilateral actions by some states to ban imports of species which they considered to be over-exploited. While such actions are authorized by Article XIV of the Convention, they resulted in resentment on the part of exporting states and it became clear that the parties needed to agree upon an acceptable method of ensuring that the provisions of Article IV were effectively implemented.

As a result, at the eighth Conference of the Parties in Kyoto in 1992, the parties adopted a Resolution which established what became known as the significant trade process. In this process, the CITES Secretariat contracts expert reviews of trade data and biological characteristics of species listed on Appendix II in order to determine whether the levels being traded are inconsistent with viability of the species.

Where problems are found, the CITES Animals Committee makes recommendations for rectification and the Secretariat notifies the Management Authority of the exporting country of the need to respond to these recommendations. Where the exporting state fails to take remedial action, the Standing Committee of the Convention can recommend that the other states either refuse to import a particular species from the state or suspend all trade with it.

The introduction of this system of sanctions has resulted in improved effectiveness of the Convention since economic considerations of the potential impact of a loss of trade revenue has led many states to improve their systems for the control and monitoring of trade in wild species. For some states, where cost factors had hindered implementation, the system has also resulted in improved access to funding for the enhancement of their technical and administrative capacity to comply with Convention regulations.

In recent years the Convention has been criticized by some as being too protectionist in nature. This criticism has been leveled by pro-trade activists who view the wild animals and plants found in particular nations as natural resources to be exploited in the same manner as mineral or other resources.

However, as illegal trade in wildlife proliferates fuelled by burgeoning demand for exotic species and their body parts, and as habitat loss daily drives more wild species to the brink of extinction, environmentalists have also questioned the effectiveness of this treaty.

The validity of these concerns are given credence by the fact that the elaborate and costly administrative arrangements set up under the Convention addresses only one threat to the survival of our wild flora and fauna. Moreover, in attempting to address this threat, the Convention is circumscribed by both the same implicit view of wild flora and fauna as resources to be exploited, albeit in a controlled manner, as well as by the very principles of autonomous resource use on which the treaty was founded.

Posted by jebratt :: Wednesday, July 12, 2006 :: 0 comments

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