U.N. delegates from around the world gathered at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (Cites) in Qatar this week- their mission? To vote on international regulations governing the trade in endangered species. For the urban layman, their decisions affect how much tuna we can have for sushi or how many shark-fins are allowed in the market. There were four proposals to tightly regulate, rather than ban, trade in several endangered marine species. Somehow, three of the four proposals were rejected. Bans on bluefin tuna trade and regulations on coral were also defeated.
At first glance the decisions seem easy- regulating the international trade of already endangered species sounds good for everyone- it would facilitate the survival of both the species and the industry around it. But like the Once-ler and the Truffula Trees, the ocean’s fishing industry is not so keen to reduce consumption.
There is some debate as to whether the issues are trade or fisheries enforcement issues, but the structure of the treaty behind the conference sets it up for failure as well. One obstacle is that there are many countries, including China and Japan, who don’t want international authorities involved in regulating fishing in the ocean. Second, all votes are by secret ballot so no one need take a public stand. Third, the treaty requires that two-thirds of the delegates approve a proposal for it to pass.
Proposals to protect calloped hammerhead, oceanic whitetip and spiny dogfish sharks through internationally regulated trade were rejected. The hammerhead and whitetip proposals had majority backing but failed to get the two-thirds vote. A fourth proposal to protect porbeagle sharks passed 86 to 42 (8 abstentions).
“We will continue to pursue our efforts to protect sharks from eradication by the decadent and cruel process of shark-finning. I am sure that, properly prepared, bald eagle is delicious. But, as civilized people, we simply do not eat it.” — Stuart Beck, Palau’s ambassador to the United Nations