International community places a range of species under protection for the first time at CITES COP19 in Panama
The 19th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES COP19), held in Panama from 14 to 25 November 2022, sent a strong message on species protection. The Parties to the Convention adopted comprehensive trade restrictions and bans to protect animal and plant species that are threatened as a result of trade, especially marine species, reptiles, amphibians and tropical tree species. More than 2,500 delegates from 170 of the 184 Parties to the Convention took part in the World Wildlife Conference, together with representatives of international organisations and non-governmental organisations (NGOs). At the conference, Germany expressed its support for urgently required ambitious species protection, and for strict sustainability checks in the case of endangered animals and plants.
Federal Environment Minister Steffi Lemke commented: "CITES COP19 placed around 100 shark and ray species, 150 tropical tree species and over 200 reptile and amphibian species under international protection for the first time. This is a historic decision for species protection. By doing so, the international community sent a strong message and expressed clear support for more stringent checks on international trade in species. And the bans on international trade in ivory and rhino horn remain in place. Germany made a key contribution to this important decision. This gives cause to celebrate, but also brings with it a responsibility to support targeted implementation. These very positive outcomes give us momentum for negotiations at the COP of the Convention on Biological Diversity starting in Montreal next week."
Outcomes of the CITES COP in detail
One highlight of the conference was that numerous species relevant to fishing were placed under protection, for example requiem sharks (Carcharhinidae), the heavily fished blue shark, hammerhead sharks (Sphyrnidae), guitarfish (Rhinobatidae) and sea cucumbers (Thelenota spp.). Germany strongly supported these listing applications because sharks and rays are the second most endangered group of vertebrates after amphibians. This is primarily due to international trade in shark fins and other products. With the adoption of inclusion in Annex II, around 90 percent of trade now falls under the CITES sustainability checks, rather than the 25 percent to date. This marks an important step towards improved protection for these species that are so crucial for stable ecosystems.
Improved protection for forests was also achieved at CITES COP19. One priority for the German delegation was to place numerous tree species used for wood supply and medicinal plants under protection. Heavily traded tropical timber such as ipé (Handroanthus spp., Roseodendron spp. and Tabebuia spp.) and cumaru (Dipteryx spp.) were also added to the lists. In future, only sustainably harvested wood of these wood types may be traded internationally. This means that the amount of wood taken must not exceed what can be grown back. At Germany’s initiative it was also possible to place roseroots (Rhodiola spp.) under international protection for the first time. By doing so, Germany lived up to its responsibility as a key country for trade in medicinal and aromatic plants.
The Brazil wood (Paubrasilia echinata) tree species is also massively endangered. Its wood, known as pernambuco, is used to make high-quality bows for stringed instruments. The outcome of negotiations – to submit the export of this endemic species from Brazil to comprehensive checks without introducing unnecessary checks for species protection at later stages – is a huge success for this species and for musicians worldwide.
In light of Germany’s special responsibility as a key target and transit market for exotic pets, Germany once again strongly advocated the protection of species threatened by trade in exotic pets. CITES COP19 adopted numerous inclusions of reptiles and amphibian species, including 21 listing applications for trade in live animals. Four of the submitted applications came from the EU, including two proposals drawn up by Germany on listing the endangered Lao warty newt (Laotriton laoensis) endemic to Laos and the heavily traded Chinese water dragon (Physignathus cocincinus).
These inclusions are a first step. Now it is important to resolutely implement these listings worldwide in close cooperation with the relevant sectors. Germany supports implementation of the instruments for checks prescribed under CITES with a number of projects, for example on improved enforcement of sustainability assessments and globally accessible digital applications and training. The German government received much praise and recognition for this work at COP19.
Ultimately, it was possible to retain the high level of protection for elephants and rhinos. Proposals from south African countries to water down the international ban on trade in ivory and rhino horn that has been in place for 30 years were unsuccessful.
About the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora – CITES – entered into force on 1 July 1975. It regulates the import and export of around 40,000 animal and plant species currently under threat. The Convention’s key instruments are the import and export permit requirements.
COP19 addressed a total of 52 proposed amendments to Annexes I to III of the Convention concerning trade in species, and over 90 work documents with decision and resolution proposals from different areas of the Convention, including trade in wild animals, zoonoses and enforcement.