“Unlike when I was in charge, in the 21st century a CITES Conference of the Parties, or CoP, resembles a religious festival. The activists that attend in great numbers are immune to rational argument because they are on a mission to save nature from humanity. During debates, especially when they win the vote, activists stamp their feet, wave banners, clap and cheer, while sometimes dressed in animal costumes—synthetic, of course. They arrive at CITES CoPs with fixed agendas, secure in the knowledge that they have predetermined most of the outcomes.”
These explosive words come from Eugene Lapointe, president of the International Wildlife Management Consortium World Conservation Trust. As early as 1970, he, in his own words, “played a small part in the creation of CITES,” going on—some 10 years later—to become its secretary general, so this gentleman knows what he’s talking about.
Over time, he’s witnessed, just as our own trade representatives have repeatedly done, decisions to list or de-list a species are not always taken on the basis of scientific evidence. Instead, they are often taken as a result of the influence exerted by what Lapointe refers to as “mega-rich NGOs” (non-governmental organizations) whose main aim seems to be to oppose international trade in wildlife “as a matter of principle, and not for scientific reasons.” (Doesn’t this sound suspiciously like the goings on in Hawaii?)
This “mega-rich” maneuvering is precisely what our own representatives have experienced on a growing basis over past Conferences of the Parties (CoPs). Indeed, as I reported recently, fresh attempts are currently being made by some powerful entities under the guise of the coronavirus pandemic to close down all trade in wildlife, a move that has been strongly opposed by our industry and has resulted in a “vigorous” open letter to the CITES secretariat from numerous organizations involved in one or other aspect of the trade in wildlife.
The protesting cosignatory trade NGOs to this well-researched and argued letter include the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC), the above-mentioned International Wildlife Management Consortium World Conservation Trust (IWMC), the Ivory Education Institute (IEI), the European Pet Organisation (EPO), the Parrot Breeders of Southern Africa (PASA), Ornamental Fish International (OFI), the Ornamental Aquatic Trade Association (OATA), Livelihood International, the Sustainable Use Coalition, the Fur Institute of Canada, Americas Fur Resources Council, the International Professional Hunters Association (IPHA), the Private Rhino Owners’ Association (PROA) and Deutsche Gesellschaft für Herpetologie und Terrarienkunde (DGHT).
Now, in his capacity both as president of the IWMC Conservation Trust and one of the founding members of the Sustainable Use Alliance (SUA), Lapointe is fighting to restore “the founding principles of CITES, with the goal of restoring its integrity.”
He sees CITES as being the victim of “pork-barrel politics” where vote buying is being orchestrated by third parties that have “taken advantage of the plight of the often chaotic decision-making processes in some developing countries.” As a result, he has seen, just as our own delegates have done, that “numerous species that are not endangered by trade, and some of which are barely traded, have been added to the three CITES Appendices.” These include many marine fish which CITES was never “meant or equipped to list.”
Clearly, there’s going to be fireworks in the months ahead, so we need to keep a close watch on developments. In the meantime, it might well be worth our own trade organizations considering subscribing to SUA, thus joining forces with a powerful ally in the fight against those who are intent on closing us down.
Sustainable Use Alliance
The Sustainable Use Alliance (SUA) was formed in Germany in February 2020. It brings together “a diverse group of representatives of countries (10 so far, [at the time of writing]) and trade bodies from around the world. The SUA is not a tight-knit organization, but a loose grouping that is open to debate and disagreement. What unites the SUA’s ranks is a shared commitment to the founding principles of CITES, with the goal of restoring its integrity.”
For further information, contact Eugene Lapointe via the IWMC World Conservation Trust website contact page here.
CITES: An Overview
CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) is an international agreement between governments. Its aim is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.
I am grateful to OFI for alerting me to the Lapointe document.
The full text of the article by Eugene Lapointe may be accessed here.
John Dawes is an international ornamental aquatic industry consultant. He has written and/or edited more than 50 books and has contributed more than 4,000 articles to hobby, trade and academic publications. He is the editor of the OFI Journal and a consultant to AquaRealm, the trade show that took place June 2017 in Singapore.