Critical Measures to be Debated at Global Conservation Event

IUCN World Conservation Congress to make critical decisions effecting endangered wildlife and wild places around the globe
The High Seas
Credit: photo by Tiago Fioreze

In just a few days, I will be leading an NRDC delegation of lawyers, scientists, and policy experts to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature's (IUCN) World Conservation Congress, which will be held in the U.S. (Honolulu, Hawaii) for the first time in its 60-year history. The NRDC delegation will lobby for the passage of a series of resolutions aimed at saving some of the world’s most imperiled species.

The Congress is the world’s largest conservation event — bringing together more than 10,000 participants from all over the globe, including leaders from governments, environmental and conservation groups, businesses, UN agencies, and indigenous peoples. Together, they discuss and decide on solutions to the world’s most pressing environmental and development challenges. The IUCN, which hosts the conference and publishes the famous and influential “Red List” of threatened plants and animals, is the world’s main authority on the conservation status of species.

While there are about 99 motions in total, spanning everything from clean water to imperiled species to national parks, NRDC is focused on two sets of motions in particular.

The first are motions NRDC is co-sponsoring that are needed to protect species imperiled by the international wildlife trade:

  • Elephants: Motion 7 encourages countries to close their domestic ivory markets, as the U.S. has done and we are encouraging China to do.​
  • Pangolins: Motion 11 supports banning the trade in pangolin parts (the most trafficked mammal in the world) at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) this fall.
  • Vaquitas: Motion 13 seeks enhanced protections for the vaquita. There are fewer than 60 individuals of this small, unique porpoise remaining in the world, largely due to bycatch — entanglement and drowning in gillnets set illegally to catch another endangered species, the totoaba, which is valued for its swim bladder.
  • Sharks and rays: Motion 23 supports regulating the trade in fins, gill plates, and other parts from silky sharks, three species of thresher shark, and nine species of mobula rays at CITES. The motion also encourages countries to adopt management measures to prevent overfishing and illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing of these species.
  • Whales: Motion 58 urges countries to stop allowing commercial whaling under the guise of scientific research.

Second are motions NRDC is co-sponsoring would help protect our world’s oceans:

  • Antarctic: Motion 31 encourages greater protection of the Antarctic environment through the creation of protected areas.
  • High seas: Motion 49 seeks to facilitate a treaty to protect the high seas which, despite being among the largest reservoirs of biodiversity on the planet, fall outside of countries' exclusive economic zones and thus have not been governed properly.
  • Marine Protected Areas: Motion 53 encourages countries to designate at least 30% of their national waters as marine protected areas by 2030 and support establishing MPAs in areas beyond national jurisdiction.

We all know that the world is changing rapidly. We are changing it. And too often the creatures that we share the earth with bear the burdens of the changes we have wrought: increasing development, accelerating pollution, habitat loss and fragmentation, and commercial exploitation, both legal and illegal. The World Conservation Congress offers a unique opportunity to focus governments on the urgent need for conservation solutions – before it’s too late. And my colleagues at NRDC will be there to make sure that happens. 

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