CITES Animals Committee met in Geneva in June to talk through a varied agenda which had a number of issues relevant to the ornamental aquatics industry. Here’s a round-up of the topics of most interest to UK businesses.

Marine ornamental fishes

This project, which aims to examine the trade and conservation of marine fish, has been on the table for a couple of years now (find a history here). Up for discussion at the Animals Committee was the workshop planned to examine the trade. We have made numerous representations about how this workshop will operate – it is vitally important that the trade is adequately represented on the workshop and it is not overrun with charities and NGOs opposed to the trade in ornamental fish. We do not support what is being proposed (find more detail here in the Annex).

OATA’s Chief Executive Dominic Whitmee commented: “What was proposed was very disappointing. I was left with the feeling that CITES just want to get this over and done with regardless of following proper protocols and that ‘it’s just ornamental fish’ so not as important or worthy of scrutiny as, say, elephants. This is despite the fact that this trade is of far greater importance to more people (100s of 1,000s) in some of the world’s poorest communities than those issues which governments generally give priority to. Managed well, this sector has far greater potential to support positive conservation outcomes than many others that are given far more time and attention.”

Indonesia offered to host the workshop which is expected to take place in either the last quarter of this year or the first of next. We will work with Ornamental Fish International to play our part in this workshop.

Trade in stony corals (Scleractinia spp)

This is looking at making amendments to the way coral rock (live rock) is defined by CITES and reported. Our concern with what’s proposed in what is admittedly a complex topic is that CITES is unnecessarily over-complicating matters and proposing amendments that have at best only a theoretical conservation benefit. Some elements of what’s proposed are unenforceable and risk unintended consequences, such as potentially drawing unlisted species under CITES controls. See what was proposed here and here.

Working groups have been established to discuss what’s proposed further with Ornamental Fish International and European Pet Organization participating to represent the global industry and we will engage in discussions through them.

Specimens of animals not of wild source

Our main concern with what is proposed here is that long-term breeders of species that go onto Appendix 1 are unlikely to have paperwork that shows the legal origin of their brood stock and that there are no practical methods for marking small animals as required by the Convention. It is vital that changes proposed do not stop commercial captive breeding businesses which actually take the pressure off wild stocks and help to minimise illegal trade. Find what was proposed here.

Working groups have been established to discuss what is proposed and we will pursue these points through Ornamental Fish International and European Pet Organization who are participating to represent the global industry.