Trade bodies from around the world are calling on aquatic businesses to signup to help them compile a comprehensive picture of the marine ornamental fishtrade.

This follows the 18th Conference of the Parties (CoP18) to the Convention onInternational Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), held in Geneva this August,where the international pet trade was put under the spotlight. Amongst theirdecisions, CITES Parties agreed to convene a technical workshop to considerthe conservation priorities and management needs related to the trade in non-CITES listed marine ornamental fish worldwide with a particular focus on datafrom importing and exporting countries.

Trade bodies have asked CITES Parties to fully engage industry in theirassessment and analysis and are keen to work in partnership with key inter-governmental organisations such as the International Union for theConservation of Nature (IUCN), the UN’s World Conservation Monitoring Centre(WCMC) and the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in providingaccurate trade data to support the work now planned by CITES.

During the debate and in discussions with key Parties, the CITES Secretariatand relevant inter­governmental organisations, Dominic Whitmee of theOrnamental Aquatic Trade Association (OATA) representing the European PetOrganisation (EPO) and on behalf of Ornamental Fish International (OFI), thePet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC), the Sustainable Users Network(SUN) and IWMC World Conservation Trust, highlighted concerns about the biasedrepresentation of the trade and the importance of engaging industrystakeholders in any work going forward.

OATA’s Dominic Whitmee said: “This work could have significant implicationsfor our industry across the globe. Interventions by Parties and othersdemonstrated a troubling lack of knowledge about the trade and a seeminglyinherent view that the trade is unsustainable and in need of management andreform. This may be the case in some instances but it is unfair to categorisethe entire industry in this way.

“If we can agree on a strategic, inter-governmental partnership involvingindustry we may have the opportunity to develop a programme of work whichidentifies well-informed, reliable and constructive outcomes that will helpensure a sustainable long-term future for our industry. We cannot support arushed and ill-considered process or one led by those with a track record ofseeking to damage our trade.”

OFI’s Svein Fosså said: “It is clear from discussions in CITES that somepeople are targeting the international pet trade. To achieve a constructiveapproach the engagement of our member businesses will be paramount – toprovide the data needed to develop a sound understanding of trade volumes andpathways. Without good baseline data we can expect ill-informed decision-making and potentially damaging outcomes.

“If our member businesses do not engage in this process we should expect anacceleration of new and potentially damaging reforms to our sector. We wouldtherefore welcome businesses with a particular interest or role in importing,exporting or selling marine fish species to get in touch with their respectivecountry or international trade association to see how they can help supportthe future of their business.”

Robert Likins, Vice President of Government Affairs for PIJAC said: “For thesecond straight CoP, very limited time was allowed for discussing proposedlistings of the species important to the pet trade such as reptiles,amphibians and arachnids, and no opportunity was given to trade bodies tooffer their comments on the proposals, despite the fact that they representthe people directly affected by these listings.

“This is very troubling as CITES has increased focus on species in the pettrade recently. We at PIJAC, along with other pet trade associations will bedelivering an open letter to the CITES Secretariat expressing our concerns andproposing process solutions that will provide for truly ethical and impartialdebate on these complicated wildlife trade and conservation issues.”

UK businesses should contact OATA ([email protected]), US businessesshould contact PIJAC ([email protected]) and other businesses can contact OFI (OFISecretariat [email protected]).

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