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Brussels, 18 June 2007

International Trade in Wildlife: European Commission welcomes results of CITES conference, adopts Recommendation on enforcement

The Commission welcomes last Friday's successful outcome of the first ever Conference of Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) to take place in the European Union. The 3-15 June Conference in The Hague reached a historic solution on the ivory issue after 18 years of controversial debate. An EU proposal to regulate trade in European eels under CITES was adopted and Parties furthermore acknowledged that trade in timber and marine species needs further attention. In line with the commitments made by the EU, the Commission on 13 June adopted an action plan on CITES enforcement.

Environment Commissioner Stavros Dimas said: "I welcome the historic agreement between African States for the conservation of elephants. It shows that with collaboration between all countries, CITES can be the most effective international tool for the conservation of this species. I am also convinced that CITES will have to give greater attention to commercially exploited species like timber and marine species. With an increasing human demand for such natural resources, international cooperation is needed to ensure the sustainability of this trade in the long term."

Ivory Sales

The consensus agreement reached by the Parties on elephant conservation provides for a nine-year moratorium on ivory sales after an agreed one-off sale of government-owned stocks of raw ivory. The agreement between African ministers ends 18 years of controversial debate in CITES, thus paving the way for more constructive dialogue on elephant conservation programmes in the coming years. The agreement, which was reached on the basis of a compromise package proposed by the EU, limits the amount of ivory that will be released for the one-off sale. Only existing ivory stocks registered before 31 January 2007 by the governments of Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe and South Africa, and coming from elephants that died naturally or had to be killed because they posed a menace to local populations, will be sold. After this sale, no immediate proposals for ivory trade from these countries will be considered by CITES. Discussion of a mechanism for decision-making on future sales will begin only in 2013.

The agreement also includes the development of an African Elephant Action Plan by the African countries. This will be supported financially by a newly established African Elephant Fund.

Trade in marine species and timber

An EU proposal for listing European eels on CITES was adopted. This means international trade in the European eel will be regulated in order to prevent overfishing of eels and glass eels for the global market. The European Council adopted an action plan for the conservation of the European eel on 11 June. The regulation and control of the international trade through CITES is a complementary action to various conservation actions for this species.

EU proposals for improved trade regulation of three tree species (Cedrela and 2 Dalbergia species) under CITES were not approved but Parties endorsed an action plan which will result in further information-gathering with a view to proposing additional measures at the next Conference in 2010.

Strategic vision

The European Commission welcomes the agreed strategic vision for CITES for the next six years, which advocates a coherent approach to addressing unsustainable trade in all species, including those that are commercially exploited.

EU action plan on enforcement

In line with the international commitment to strengthen enforcement of CITES and in response to the Council’s December 2006 conclusions on halting the loss of biodiversity, the Commission on 13 June adopted a Recommendation to Member States. The Recommendation sets out a series of measures that Member States should implement in order to enhance their efforts to combat illegal trade. These include adopting national action plans for enforcement, imposing sufficiently high penalties for wildlife trade offences and using risk and intelligence assessments to detect illegal and smuggled wildlife products. Equally important consideration is given to raising public awareness about the negative impacts of illegal wildlife trade and ensuring greater cooperation and exchange of information within and between Member States as well as with third countries, Interpol and the World Customs Organization.

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