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CITES can help save bluefin tuna, stem wildlife poaching crisis

Doha, QATAR: Governments meeting March 13 for the largest wildlife trade convention will have a unique opportunity to help preserve the world’s oceans and simultaneously stem a worldwide poaching crisis.

The 15th meeting of the Conference of the Parties of the Convention on International Trade in  Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora (CITES CoP 15) will consider an unprecedented six proposals to better protect marine species – including a crucial ban on the international commercial trade of Atlantic bluefin tuna.

Currently, the Atlantic bluefin tuna is on the brink of extinction because of overfishing and illegal fishing to feed a rapidly expanding market in recent years for sushi and sashimi, mainly in Japan, but also increasingly in the United States and Europe. Overall, Atlantic bluefin tuna stocks have declined by over 85 percent compared to maximum historical stock levels.

“This is the meeting where governments must take a stand to save the Atlantic bluefin tuna and no longer stoop to the short-term interests of a bloated hi-tech fishing industry,” said Mark Stevens of WWF’s Marine Fisheries Program. “Otherwise, this important species and a centuries-old fishing tradition could crash.”

The governments will consider putting Atlantic bluefin tuna on Appendix I of the Convention – the highest level of protection under its appendix system, which would ban all international commercial trade.

Other marine species up for increased protection under CITES include red and pink coral – being harvested out of existence to make jewelry and decorative items – and four shark species.

Proposals to put these four shark species on CITES Appendix II, which would ensure stricter trade controls, will be considered at the meeting. These sharks currently are overfished because of demand for their fins and meat.

In addition, government delegations also will consider steps they can take to help stem a worldwide poaching crisis destroying tiger, rhino and elephant populations in Asia and Africa.

“Not only has rhino poaching in southern Africa increased dramatically but elephant poaching in central Africa and tiger poaching in Asia has risen as well and is seriously threatening these species,” said Crawford Allan, Director of TRAFFIC North America. “At this CITES CoP, governments really need to commit to take sustainable actions to reduce the casual factors driving poaching, namely the exponential growth in consumer demand and trade in these species’ body parts for fashion and medicine."

Rhino poaching worldwide is at a 15-year high and exacerbated by increasingly sophisticated poachers, who now are using veterinary drugs, poison, cross bows and high-caliber weapons to kill rhinos. There is also a marked increase in demand in Asia, particularly in Vietnam, fueled by dubious claims that rhino horn cures cancer.

Tigers in particular are in the spotlight during this Year of the Tiger in the Chinese lunar calendar. All 13 tiger range states are signatories to the CITES convention.

At the CoP countries will be voting on measures that, if properly enforced, can end all illegal tiger trade for good. This is a critical measure as there are only an estimated 3,200 wild tigers left and poaching and illegal trade are the biggest threat to their survival in the wild.

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For more information, please contact:

Trishna Gurung, Sr Communications Officer, WWF at CITES CoP15, Doha Qatar

+1 202 203 8863, trishna.gurung@wwfus.org

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