CONVENTION ON INTERNATIONAL TRADE IN ENDANGERED SPECIES

 

OF WILD FAUNA AND FLORA

 

 

 

 

Dr  J.A. Armstrong

Deputy Secretary General

Telephone:    (+41-22) 9178127

Confid. Fax: (+41-22) 9178061

Mobile: (+41) 79 4770805

E-mail: jim.armstrong@unep.ch

TO:                  Roddy Gabel

Chief, Office of the scientific Authority,

United States Fish and Wildlife Service

 

DATE:             27 September, 2004

 

SUBJECT:    Proposed Sturgeon Rule

_______________________________________________________________________

 

 

Dear Dr GabelRoddy

 

Thank you for inviting the CITES Secretariat to comment on the proposed Rule.

 

The Secretariat supports all initiatives to enhance the conservation of species whose trade is regulated by CITES.  However, in the light of the more comprehensive, multilateral CITES measures currently in place to regulate the trade in Huso huso and all other sturgeon species, originating from any shared population, the proposed rule appears unnecessary and duplicative.

 

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) argues that its intention with the new Rule is to ‘build upon’ the CITES process.  If this were so, we would welcome the U.S. support for the CITES sturgeon programme that the Secretariat is now required to manage.  However, the Secretariat believes that the new proposal, being unilaterally applied, provides little if any support for the CITES sturgeon programme and in fact, may well serve to undermine it. 

 

The USFWS state that it intends to use the proposed rule “to build upon the progress already made by the range countries in CITES forums, while recognizing that there are certain data gaps and information and management needs yet to be filled”.  However, the Secretariat would expect a CITES Party to first move to strengthen where necessary any inadequacies that it perceives exist in the current CITES Resolution before moving to impose unilateral measures on the Parties of the Convention.  In fact, the new Rule seems to impose only one new substantive requirement, when compared to the existing CITES Resolution, namely the requirement for the beluga range States to submit an annual report (detailing some six data items) and to subject these reports to a formal review process conducted by the USFWS.  However, the  Secretariat has already published on the CITES web site in 2003, much of this information for beluga and has indicated to all sturgeon range States that it plans to do so again in 2004 and in subsequent years as part of its obligations under the Resolution.  Consequently, the proposed new Rule is duplicative and might in fact only serve to undermine the Convention’s efforts to regulate the world’s sturgeon fisheries. 

 

The The stated reason for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) state that they are proposinghaving proposed the new Rule is to ensure that the current CITES regulations [in my view, CITES regulates trade but does not have ‘regulations’ so I would prefer regulatory frameworkas used later) for beluga sturgeon continue after 2004[1].  In fact, CITES Resolution Conf. 12.7 provides the regulatory framework that the proposed Rule is seeking to introduce and, importantly, the Resolution is not time bound in its application.  Clearly then, the proposed Rule is un-necessary, superfluous and redundant. (Perhaps we could say; The proposed Rule may well be unnecessary and may simply place additional burdens upon the USFWS.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that have already been allocated to, and are being undertaken by, the CITES Secretariat.

 

It is clear that the proposed Rule provides no greater regulatory provisions [regulatory coverage?] than those [that?] already available under the CITES Resolution [but it would be legally-binding, if that is needed. The justification for unilateral action, i.e. to  ‘impose requirements on the range countries’, sounds stunningly arrogant even if the US has the right to decide the conditions under which it imports.] .  CITES Resolution Conf. 12.7 arose directly from the ‘Paris Agreement’ that had been negotiated with the Caspian Range States by the CITES Standing Committee, when the United States chaired that Committee.  Importantly, the punitivenon-compliance measures contained in the Resolution are far more extensive than those proposed in the new Rule (which only applyies to Huso huso).  The Resolution requires the establishment of a conservation management plan and the provision annually of extensive stock assessment data to support intended catch and export quotas.  Failure to provideed these data (or to relate these data to the Management Plan) by any range State within any of the specified sturgeon basins, for all harvested sturgeon species within each basin, imposes [triggers? results in?] a basin-wide trade suspension on all of the relevant range States for all of their sturgeon species.  The USFWS should know about [be aware of?] these provisions in the Resolution since, rather ironically, they wereit was informed recently that theyit had failed to provide the necessary data for their sturgeon stocks this year.  The Secretariat therefore has not posted the U.S. or Canada’s sturgeon catch and export quotas for 2004 on the CITES website.  Under Resolution Conf. 12.7, Parties to CITES are required not to accept the import of sturgeon products from Canada or the U.S. until the CITES Secretariat is satisfied that these States have complied fully with the requirements of the Resolution. 

 

The USFWS argues that its intention with the new Rule is to ‘build upon’ the CITES process and we welcome the U.S. support for the CITES sturgeon programme that the Secretariat is now required to manage.  However, the Secretariat believes that the new proposal, being unilaterally applied, provides little if any support for the CITES sturgeon programme and in fact, may well serve to undermine it.  The USFWS state that theyit intends to use the proposed rule “to build upon the progress already made by the range countries in CITES forums, while recognizing that there are certain data gaps and information and management needs yet to be filled”.  However, the Secretariat would expect a CITES Party to first move to strengthen where necessary any inadequacies that it perceives exists in the current CITES Resolution before moving to impose unilateral measures on the Parties of the Convention.  In fact, the new Rule seems to impose only one new requirement, when compared to the existing CITES Resolution, namely the requirement for the beluga range States to submit an annual report (detailing some six data items) and to subject these reports to a formal review process conducted by the USFWS [again, stunningly arrogant].  However, the CITES Secretariat has already published on the CITES its web site in 2003, much of this information for beluga and has indicated to all sturgeon range States that it plans to do so again in 2004 and in subsequent years as part of its obligations under the Rresolution.  SoConsequently, the proposed new R?rule is duplicative at best and serves only tomight undermine the role of the CITES Secretariat in its regulation of [Convention’s efforts to regulate] the world’s sturgeon fisheries. 

 

The CITES Secretariat believes that the beluga fisheries are already well regulated under CITES, specifically through the implementation of Resolution Conf. 12.7.  It appears that the USFWS believes that more is needed to adequately conserve and develop the world’s beluga stocks.  Obviously more assistance to the Secretariat would be appreciated since we are a chronically under-resourced Secretariat with an [the] [ challengingimpossibly huge] responsibility for [to assist 166 States Parties in] regulating international trade in more than 30,000 species of plants and animals.  Regrettably, the proposed Rule does not provide the support that is needed but rather duplicates provisions already being implemented under the sturgeon Resolution.  We fear that itthe proposed Rule will serve only to confuse and make more complex the implementation of Resolution Conf. 12.7.  The requirements of the CITES Resolution are already substantive and the introduction of a stand alone system that hasd different and additional reporting requirements cannot be in the best interest of the conservation of beluga stocks or for for [ensuring] compliance with the provisions of the CITES Convention.

 

Yours sincerely

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Jim Armstrong



[1] The actual text in the Rule states: “3. Nearly all of the recommendations promulgated by the CITES Standing Committee for the range countries have been achieved or nearly achieved, according to the CITES Secretariat. We are unable to predict, therefore, how the CITES system will require updates and systematic changes in range country management programs for Huso huso after the Standing Committee reviews compliance with the 2001 recommendations (including the socalled ‘‘Paris Agreement’’) after 2004.” and again in “We believe this special rule is necessary and advisable for the species’ conservation because it: … will continue to impose requirements on the range countries after they satisfy current CITES stipulations.