This week, representatives from 130 countries are gathered at the meeting of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS COP13) in Gandhinagar, India. This meeting is an opportunity for nations to review proposals for greater protections for imperiled migratory wildlife and to provide international or regional collaboration for species conservation. Defenders of Wildlife’s Alejandra Goyenechea, senior international counsel, is present during the event to support proposals presented on jaguar and oceanic whitetip shark protection.
Several species’ listing proposals will be up for discussion and vote, including one for listing the jaguar under Appendices I and II; and a proposal for listing the oceanic whitetip under Appendix I. Appendix I includes endangered migratory species and prohibits the take of the species; Appendix II requires parties to develop international agreements and cooperation to improve the conservation status of the species.
While both species are currently listed under Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), complementary protections by CMS CoP countries will strengthen other regional and international efforts.
“There are several needed efforts of collaboration to protecting wildlife on a global scale,” said Goyenechea. “Listings such as those proposed by the parties for CMS COP13 provide the perfect opportunity to strengthen regional strategies and enforce ecosystem wide wildlife protection throughout their range. These proposals, when implemented and combined with other international agreements, could be more effective in saving jaguars and sharks in the long-run.”
Jaguars exist in 18 countries in the Americas, from Mexico to Argentina. While the rare individual has been spotted in the US, there has not been evidence of a breeding population in the US in more than 50 years.
During the 1960s and 1970s, the jaguar was heavily hunted for its fur; as many as 18,000 jaguars were killed each year until 1973, when the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) brought the pelt trade to a near halt. Today, jaguars continue to be hunted, mostly due to poaching and conflict with people.
In July 2019, the first international jaguar workshop was hosted in Bolivia to design measures to combat the illegal trade of jaguars, which focused on the trade of jaguar parts and products that are exported from Latin America to Asia.
In August 2019, CITES adopted a decision for the conservation of jaguars which requests the international community to monitor the illegal trade in jaguar specimens and adopt enforcement controls to stop the poaching of jaguars.
In October 2019, several nations across Latin America adopted the Lima Declaration on Illegal Wildlife Trade, which recognized illegal wildlife trade as a serious crime that threatens the rich biodiversity in the region and adversely affects local communities and economies. Participating nations from across the Americas committed to coordinating regional efforts to fight illegal wildlife trade, including jaguars.
“These meetings furthered the movement toward curbing not just jaguar trade but also the poaching of jaguars, dealing a blow to the illegal wildlife trade of this great cat,” said Goyenechea. “International efforts such as the Lima Declaration and the workshop in Bolivia bring committed nations together to adopt meaningful action in the areas these species live and roam.”
Oceanic Whitetip Sharks
Oceanic whitetip sharks were once prevalent and ranked as one of the three most abundant species of both oceanic sharks and large marine animals. Today, due to the overfishing from the shark fin trade, assessments show that the species has declined by 99%.
This highly migratory species travels around the world and feeds mostly in shallow waters, which make it easier to harvest them. Since their populations have plummeted by 99% in recent years, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) listed oceanic whitetips on their Red List as Critically Endangered in 2019.
Oceanic whitetips were listed in Appendix II at CITES in 2013 and received additional protections in the form of retention bans through regional fisheries management organizations.
While these efforts provide a solid foundation for shark conservation, additional protections such as the CMS listing are necessary to complement them.