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International Waters: "Pay to Breed” 50 Percent Closer

Posted: December 26, 2013, 1:50 p.m. EDT


By John Dawes

As I write, it’s three years almost to the day that the adoption of the Nagoya Protocol on Access to Genetic Resources and the Fair and Equitable Sharing of Benefits Arising from their Utilization to the Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD) signalled a future never before envisioned for numerous industries. This includes the ornamental aquatic industry.

The protocol requires users of genetic resources (fish, aquatic invertebrates and aquatic plants) to acknowledge the sources of these organisms and compensate the countries of origin. This has sometimes been referred to as a "pay to breed” fee where, for example, breeders of Malawi cichlids would have to pay Malawi, Mozambique and Tanzania some form of fee or royalty for the commercial exploitation of the fish resources of Lake Malawi.

Complicating factors hindering full implementation of the protocol include determining who exactly decides whether fees are due; what quantities will be involved; who will administer the payment process; who should benefit in those cases where a species occurs in more than one country; whether fees should be backdated and have a cutoff date; and how decisions are made in cases where the country(ies) of origin cannot be determined accurately. Despite the difficulties, the ratification process of the protocol continues.

Consequently, more countries are ratifying, or acceding to, the protocol; other countries are lagging and are in no hurry to ratify the protocol. Belarus is unsure of the benefits of ratification, or what investments are necessary following ratification. The EU is slow to ratify; some member states aiming to do so during 2014.

Braulio Ferreira de Souza Dias, CBD executive secretary, maintains the protocol stands a good chance of entering into force in time for the 12th meeting (Conference of the Parties) of the CBD due to be held in the Republic of Korea in October 2014.

Part of his optimism arises from the fact that five more countries ratified the protocol toward the end of September/beginning of October 2013: Bhutan, Côte D’Ivoire, Guinea Bissau, Indonesia and Norway. This brings the number of protocol ratifiers to 25, representing 50 percent of the total required for it to enter into force. In practice, it will only come into force 90 days after the final ratification, but this is a minor delay once the necessary number of ratifiers has been reached.

In reviewing the countries that have ratified the protocol, only three or four could be regarded as harboring significant diversity regarding species relevant to the ornamental aquatic industry: India, Indonesia, Mexico and perhaps South Africa. None of the African countries from which many of the industry’s most popular fishes come from have not ratified.

Malawi, Tanzania, Uganda and Burundi have not signed; Nigeria and Mozambique have signed but have not yet ratified. Argentina, Brazil, Colombia and Peru have signed but not ratified;  Venezuela has not signed. Malaysia has not yet signed; neither has Singapore, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, Myanmar and more.

It remains to be seen how many of these countries either initiate the process of ratification by signing the protocol or proceed to approve/ratify it following initial signature. It also remains to be seen whether the required 50 ratifications are achieved prior to the October 2014 CBD Conference of the Parties, or whether further delays will arise. Irrespective of all this, the ornamental aquatic industry does not appear to be preparing itself for what’s to come—even if it comes later than the CBD executive secretary believes will be the case.  

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