UK trade body OATA is adding its voice to concerns being raised by Ornamental Fish International (OFI) and the European Pet Organization (EPO) about a CITES proposal to examine the trade in all marine ornamental species.

The proposal, put forward by Switzerland, the EU and the USA, will be discussed at the current Conference of the Parties (CoP), being held in Geneva from 17 to 28 August. It calls for ‘an examination of the conservation implications of the marine ornamental fish trade’. The proposal includes a call for CITES to organise a workshop to ‘consider the biological and implementation issues related to the trade’.

The CITES Secretariat has raised caution about the work and resource implications of the proposal and, most importantly, has proposed amendments to ensure industry is involved in any workshop, which OFI and EPO have welcomed following representations they made about the potential exclusion of our sector over past months.

Both OFI and EPO, on behalf of OATA & REPTA, are making representations at the CoP on this proposal as well as several others (suchT as Banggai Cardinal and many reptile species) and will be supporting recommendations on recognising the importance of engaging local communities in CITES’ decision-making processes.

“We have deep concerns about what lies behind this proposal and its biased representation of the trade and welcome the CITES Secretariat’s proposal to involve industry in the workshop, which is what should have been included in the original proposal,” said OATA CEO Dominic Whitmee, who is attending the CoP as Vice President of EPO.

“The paper submitted by the Swiss Government is not a balanced view of the trade in marine ornamental fish or of the impact of that trade on wild populations. It fails to reference key literature or industry data and at no point were industry bodies consulted on it. We believe it is vital to ensure all evidence is properly and fully considered and is reliable, verified and quantitative so that an accurate and balanced picture of the trade can be established. And trade must definitely be involved in any workshop that is organised.”

A position paper submitted by OFI and EPO for the global industry is calling on CITES to ensure any workshop properly assesses the trade and sustainability of marine ornamental species in trade, including examining benefits such as livelihoods for rural communities and the alternatives open to them if trade is stopped or limited. It also calls for an examination of current laws and regulations, the impact of illegal trade and what is being done to address this.

Dominic added: “CITES pays scant regard to the socio-economic impacts of its decisions, risking the marginalisation of the communities that live with and rely on the resources CITES seeks to protect, often in some of the poorest parts of the world. This proposal could have huge implications for the global trade in wild caught marine fish, corals and invertebrates. And that starts with the fishers who seek to earn a living from the wildlife resources on their doorstep.”

A variety of species are also up for discussion about inclusion on Appendix II – including many reptile species.

The CITES proposal on marine ornamental species can be read here.

EPO and OFI Position Paper for CITES CoP 2018 can be read here (page 18 for marine ornamental species response).

The Eighteenth meeting of the CITES Conference of the Parties takes place in Geneva, Switzerland from 17 to 28 August 2019.