Pictured are OATA CEO Dominic Whitmee and Dr Matthew Bond who is speaking on behalf of the global ornamental aquatics industry at CITES CoP meeting during the discussion on zebra pleco
Thanks to Svein Fossa for the use of this photo)

UPDATED on 30 November 2022

In the final round-up Plenary sessions, where rejected proposals can be brought back for another attempt at a final decision, Brazil and the EU put forward an amended proposal to move zebra pleco to Appendix II with a zero quota for wild caught fish, which was accepted. This will have ramifications for our industry, with a requirement for any sales/purchases of zebra pleco to have a CITES permit to accompany them from next year. Inevitably that will mean increased costs for that paperwork so expect the cost of zebra plecos to increase.

Friday afternoon (24 November 2022) saw two marine ornamental species discussed at the CITES Convention of the Parties, currently taking place in Panama.

OATA again took the floor to put forward the global case on Proposal 41, which was the call from Brazil to move Hypancistrus zebra (zebra pleco) to Appendix I. The global ornamental aquatics industry position did not support this because of the lack of data to prove the case for listing. OATA’s Scientific & Technical Adviser Dr Matthew Bond this time spoke on behalf of the global industry.

He explained the industry position: “Given that this species has been banned from export by the Brazilian authorities since 2004, the species is already under the strictest regulation… Captive breeders actively reduce demand for wild individuals and fund conservation efforts of this species in its native range. Listing on either of the appendices will negatively impact these conservation benefits for populations and discourage captive breeding. Given that captive breeding for export is not permitted in Brazil, any fish being exported from South America is likely to be illegal. As such, a more effective conservation measure would be improved enforcement of the existing ban by the range state and neighbouring authorities rather than listing on CITES appendices.”

Read his intervention in full here.

Also speaking was the representative for the Fisheries and Aquaculture Division of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) which had previously held panel discussions on all the aquatic-related proposals being put forward at the CITES COP. The panel brought together experts from a variety of different disciplines to decide on the FAO position on aquatic related proposals. This panel concluded that the proposal to move zebra pleco Hypancistrus zebra from Appendix III to Appendix I did not meet the listing criteria. You can read the panel’s report here.

Both the UK and EU representatives, supported by other countries such as Canada and South Africa, also did not support Brazil’s proposal and the EU put forward an amendment to move zebra pleco to Appendix II with a zero quota for wild caught specimens. However, both the EU proposal to move to Appendix II and the original Brazilian proposal to move to Appendix I did not get the two-thirds majority needed to accept either position. Given the closeness of the vote it could return to the plenary session at the end of this week for another vote so we will continue to monitor progress on this.

This is an interesting summary of the issues in more depth from Amazonas Magazine.

Earlier in the agenda on that day, the Committee also discussed freshwater stingrays Potamotrygon wallacei and P. leopoldi. Brazil introduced CoP19 Proposal 39, asking for the inclusion of both to be included in Appendix II. The global ornamental aquatics industry position was that we supported UN FAO’s position that Potamotrygon leopaldi did not meet the listing criteria for Appendix II. Our argument was that CITES own trade database showed the species is sourced largely through captive breeding which can adequately supply demand for the global trade in live specimens.

On Potamotrygon wallacei our analysis was that there was insufficient data on which to make any decision and it would be better to gather more data for further analysis.

However, the committee agreed by consensus and all parties supported the proposal to include freshwater stingrays on Appendix II.