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Much Work Still to do on Corals by the CITES Animals Committee

Posted: September 26, 2011, 2 p.m., EDT

Although more than 18 months have elapsed at the time of this writing since CoP 15, the contentious coral issue is still a long way from being resolved.
John Dawes
At the last the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) Conference of the Parties (CoP 15) held in Doha, Qatar from March 13 to 25, 2010, three coral-related decisions were adopted. Two concerned the CITES Animals Committee (AC), which was directed to: Identify existing coral reference materials that could be adopted as standard references for CITES-listed corals; Update its list of coral taxa for which identification to the genus level is acceptable, but which should be identified to the species level where feasible, and provide the updated list to the Secretariat for dissemination.

The CoP also directed the CITES Secretariat to transmit the updated list--once it is received from the AC--to the CITES Member Countries and to publish it on the CITES website.

The AC met in Geneva, Switzerland from July 18 to 22 and decided “to have a first discussion on all new nomenclatural changes identified in this paper to identify possible problems of their adoption.” The paper in question--Document AC25 Doc. 22--is the Checklist of CITES Species, which can be accessed at www.cites.org/common/com/AC/25/E25-22-A5.pdf.

The final recommendation following these discussions will be deferred to the 26th  Animals Committee Meeting (the date of which was not yet available at the time of writing), “as it may well be that more background information will be available…” It was also suggested “to develop recommendations on how to deal with these tasks in order to enable the Animals Committee to decide upon respective recommendations at its 26th meeting.” 

This means that we are at the point where the reference and nomenclature issues are still outstanding, awaiting “a first discussion,” and the recommendations on how to deal with the task are still being developed.

Regarding the update of the list of corals that should be identified to species level, the CITES Secretariat has now officially invited the Animals Committee “to update the list in the Annex to the present document [i.e., Document AC25 Doc. 22] in order for this to be transmitted to the Parties by the Secretariat.”

So, while things are moving on the coral front, they are doing so quite slowly. The next CoP is expected to be held in Thailand on March 3 to 15, 2013, so there doesn’t appear to be all that much time for the complex coral issue to be resolved satisfactorily by the time CoP 16 comes around. Further, since the Animals Committee only meets twice between CoPs, and it’s already had one of these meetings, will it be able to sort out the coral issue with sufficient time to make concrete proposals to CoP 16? We shall see. <HOME>

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