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International Waters: CITES Rejects Stingray Proposals

Posted: July 9, 2013, 4:00 p.m. EDT

By John Dawes

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) was due to discuss proposals from Colombia and Ecuador to list three species of freshwater stingray in Appendix II at its 16th Conference of the Parties (CoP16) that ended on March 14.

Concerns had been raised by the two countries about the status of these species in the wild. However, the figures that were published in the proposals relating to total numbers collected for food, public aquarium or ornamental purposes did not appear to indicate a major crisis. For instance, the highest figure published, which related to the motoro or ocellated stingray, (Potamotrygon motoro), was 81,109 specimens exported between 1999 and 2009, or 8,110 specimens per year.

One of the many species of stingrays. John Dawes

While some might regard such quantities as significant, they cannot be considered indicative of a threat to the ongoing survival of a widely distributed and genearlly abundant species. No details were provided as to how many of these specimens were destined for human consumption, public aquaria or the ornamental aquatic trade.

The statistics for another of the species, the discus, Ceja river or manzana stingray (Paratrygon ajereba), were even less alarming: 216 specimens exported for ornamental purposes between 2007 and 2011, or 54 specimens per year.

The two proposals to list these species, plus the rosette river stingray (Potamotrygon schroederi), in Appendix II were discussed at CoP16 on March 12. Neither obtained the necessary two-thirds majority and were rejected.

Because the proposals can be re-activated in a revised form at CoP17 due to be held in South Africa in 2016, there is a four-year window for further data collection and assessment by all stakeholders, including the ornamental aquatic industry, which has been working ceaselessly over past months to bring the industry’s concerns to the attention of all relevant parties.

One major concern has focused on the lack of accurate data as to numbers, population structures and demography (including distribution), among other parameters. Another has centered on the implications of listing for commercial breeders of freshwater stingrays destined for home and public aquaria. These breeders, who mainly are based in Asian countries, are the source for a significant section of the worldwide freshwater stingray trade, and listing would halt exports of many of these fish.

Based on a further document presented to CITES by Colombia, the organization’s Animals Committee is tasked with coordinating a working group on South American freshwater stingrays. Range states, or countries where the stingrays occur, also are asked to collect and submit data.

A call is also made, via the Animals Committee, to all CITES parties (member countries) to submit data on trade levels of freshwater stingrays. The aim of this exercise is to collect and assess accurate data in time for a new listing proposal to be made at CoP17.

In response to the new document, the worldwide ornamental aquatic industry association, Ornamental Fish International (OFI), has become involved in this process and is already in contact with the Colombian authorities. This is a logical and important step that reflects the industry’s view that accurate data is essential when it comes to supporting or rejecting the listing of species in one or other of the CITES appendices. <HOME>


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