The Commission adopted a proposal to tighten the international rules for trading in rare species such as the great white shark, the Napoleon fish - popular for aquariums - and timber from the rainforest tree ramin. The proposal will be discussed at the 13th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), in October 2-14 in Bangkok. The Convention protects around 33 000 animals and plants against over-exploitation through international trade and ensures that such trade is sustainable. However, some countries want to ease controls for species such as the African elephant, the minke whale and the American bald eagle. The outcome of the Conference will later be reflected in EU law.
Commissioner for the Environment Margot Wallström said: "Unregulated international trade in rare species constitutes a major threat to the survival of wild animals and plants. In Bangkok we will have to face up to the need for better regulation of trade in sensitive species. But we also have to encourage countries that are successful in conserving their native species."
Except from a few exceptions international trade is banned for all whales and the International Whaling Commission has not yet agreed to resume commercial whaling. The EU endorses this and therefore does not favour further commercial trade in minke whales. However there are several other fish species that are not yet adequately protected by CITES. The EU is therefore pushing for regulating trade in the spectacular Pacific species, the Napoleon fish, which is very vulnerable to over-exploitation for the aquarium and food trade. For the same reason, the Commission favours better trade control for the great white shark, whose jaws and teeth are prized as souvenirs. It will also push for better protection of the European date mussel, already strictly protected under the Habitats Directive.
Currently there is a ban on international ivory trade. However, poaching and illegal ivory trade are still widespread in several African countries. Therefore, the Commission cannot agree to a resumption of commercial ivory trade unless it is clear that this will not lead to increased poaching.
Some southern African countries have been very successful in protecting their elephant populations. The need to prevent any ivory from entering the market generates stockpiles that impose a big security burden on these countries.
There are currently no common international rules protecting the yellow hardwood ramin, mainly grown in Borneo and Sumatra and which is used primarily for picture frames. The EU is the biggest importer of this hardwood, in forests inhabited by the orang-utans. The Commission is concerned about illegal logging of this species and supports Indonesia?s proposal for better regulation of international trade to prevent this.
American bald eagle
Currently all international trade in this American eagle is banned. The conservation of its national bird has been a major success story for the US and its neighbours. The Commission agrees that there is now scope for easing the very tight controls on trade so that enforcement efforts can be directed to other species of greater concern.
The proposal will be examined by the Council before the conference in Bangkok.