CITES: Another One Down – Red & Pink Corals

Last week was nothing short of depressing for conservationists attending the CITES CoP15 Conference when the endangered polar bears and tuna failed to achieve the required two thirds vote to be accepted on CITES Appendix 1 (results:64 for, 59 against, 10 abstentions). The start of the new week promised no different for the survival of other endangered species when the proposal for listing pink and red corals onto Appendix II was also rejected. International trade in these corals has contributed to serial depletion of most known populations and any new stocks have been exhausted shortly after their discovery.

The divide between those for and against the preservation of endangered species becomes clearer with each proposal rejected. While the Asians once again applauded their victory, albeit it only a sheepish, short burst considering the flood of bad press after the tuna debacle, the conservation organizations are feeling worn down with the heavy load of much defeat: “Hard to be optimistic about anything now,”  sighed Ernie Cooper of TRAFFIC, Canada.

They believe CITES is failing to uphold its mandate:  “It’s really a disgrace and CITES as an institution should be ashamed. This is a species that actually was voted into Appendix II in 2007 and then the traders got to the delegates and reversed the decision. The traders and the suppliers have more money and have therefore better lobbying than we can afford. I don’t think their decision  had to do with the science or the status of the corals so much as to do with short term profit, which is eating into the integrity of CITES,” said David Allison, Senior Campaign Director for Oceana, an international non profit organization.

There was no time for the shark proposals today, which have been moved to Tuesday while elephants and ivory are up tomorrow, but as much as the pro conservation delegates and conservationist work the corridors it appears to be of little use when votes are already secured – “you vote against coral/tuna etc. and we will vote for the lift of the ivory ban/and or etc.”  This and the will of the economic giants who believe marine species have no place in CITES but rather with regional fishery management organizations, coupled with the play on the poor who depend on these species for survival, leaves little hope. On this score Japan summed it up by saying: “If it is listed then customers will misunderstand that buying precious corals is not ecologically friendly, which will cause tremendous difficulty for the small coastal communities of Japan.  Appendix II listing will endanger their livelihood and this is a matter of our national security and that is why we ask other parties to support us and not to accept this proposal.”

Ja well no fine! Not to mention that once the coral is gone they will have no resource to trade in. They see as far as their noses. For me optimism has long since fled, way back after day one of CITES. Only a miracle can change things for the elephants or any one of the shark species proposed.

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