Trade associations from across the globe have issued an open letter to theCITES Secretariat expressing their concern about the rushed timetable and lackof robust inquiry being proposed to study the trade and conservation of marineornamental fish.
Ornamental Fish International, the Ornamental Aquatic Trade Association, theEuropean Pet Organization and Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (USA) havebanded together to highlight their areas of concern over what is beingproposed by CITES.
The open letter, which has also been sent to a wide variety of interestedcompanies, academics and non-governmental organisations across the world,outlines the main concerns with the approach being advocated by CITES, whichwould see background studies into trade completed within a matter of monthswith a workshop then scheduled by the end of next year and proposals to reachthe Animals Committee by mid-2021.
“The global ornamental aquatic industry is eager to support the recentlyagreed CITES initiative on the conservation of and trade in marine ornamentalfish. We can help to provide the provision of good quality, up-to-datebaseline data that is not currently available,” said OATA’s Chief ExecutiveDominic Whitmee.
“This will help ensure effective and well-considered solutions to support along-term and sustainable future for the industry. We are concerned that thisvaluable opportunity could be lost if the process is hurried as is beingsuggested. We could not support this as it risks poorly considered outcomesthat do not deliver truly sustainable conservation solutions. We believe that,as the global authority on fisheries management, United Nations FAO should beintegral to delivery of this initiative.”
The open letter states: “The global trade is highly complex, made up of anenormous number of very small, widely dispersed artisanal fisheries acrossmany countries, trading in over 2000 species from a wide variety of habitats,through numerous small and medium sized businesses via complex supply chains.It is low impact, low volume and high value. When managed well it can providea net biodiversity and economic gain in some of the world’s poorest countries.This small scale and the diverse nature of the trade can mean that, whilstthere may be questions over the sustainability of stocks in some areas, itdoes not necessarily mean those issues exist elsewhere for the same species.The task set by COP18 is therefore a huge endeavour and we must notunderestimate the substantial effort that will be required from all partiesinvolved if we are to achieve useful and beneficial outcomes.
“However, from information presented to and comments made during COP18, it isclear that there is a deep lack of understanding of the marine ornamental fishtrade.
“We do not believe that rapidly prepared background studies, as has beenproposed, will be able to demonstrate an accurate picture of the global trade.Official data does not contain sufficient depth to identify species in tradeand is often inaccurate. For example, it suggests that Spain is a majorexporter of marine ornamental species when in fact there is little to no tradefrom there – possibly a case of incorrectly recording marine food fish asmarine ornamental fish. This data cannot therefore be relied on to provide agood baseline to describe the global trade.
“Data from academic/scientific reports is, on the whole, out of date (by 15-20years) and does not accurately reflect current trade patterns. The resultsfrom these studies are often based on incorrect assumptions about the tradeand unsound data extrapolations, ultimately resulting in outcomes that do notreflect the real world trade (which changes according to changing demand) andin misleading or inappropriate conclusions.
“We cannot support any approach that prioritises administrative expediencyover good baseline data and a constructive approach to decision-making. We donot therefore support it.”
However, the global trade bodies do welcome the idea behind the proposal – tobuild a better understanding of the trade in marine ornamental fish, providedit is done well using reputable and independent organisations experienced indoing this kind of research. The open letter adds:
“We are keen to identify outcomes that can secure a long-term sustainabletrade and, as we have stated both at the COP and since, we are eager to workin partnership with key intergovernmental organisations, such as the UN’s Food& Agriculture Organisation (FAO), WCMC and International Union forConservation of Nature (IUCN) to ensure this. We therefore offer our supportand cooperation and the input of our member businesses to work with theseorganisations and CITES in defining a trade data collection method that canengage, and be supported by the global industry and ensure the delivery ofsound baseline data for future decisions.”
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