Will Science Trump Politics when Protecting Endangered Species from Trade?

CITES Photo.JPG

One of the questions underlying decision making at this year's meeting of the CITES Animals Committee is the extent to which decisions will be driven by scientific evidence on the status of species and the threats they face versus people's interest in making money by selling endangered species.  If history is any precedent, it will be an uphill battle to get the international community to focus purely on the conservation and strengthening of threatened species when dealing with commercially exploited animals.

At last year's meeting of the Conference of the Parties of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), economic interests won out over scientific evidence showing species current or projected decline, such as that for blue fin tuna and polar bears.  Maybe that is why the newly elected Chair of the CITES Animals Committee said today that he hoped the work of the committee can get back to focusing on the science, which should be driving CITES decision making.

I will be working at the meeting all week, advancing NRDC's priorities on wildlife and wild places.  Today, I was assigned to contribute to a working group that is looking at how climate change should be incorporated into CITES decision making and tomorrow the committee will continue to examine the status of species in "significant trade review," like the trade of dolphins that are captured in the Solomon Islands and sold to water-themed hotels around the world.  Solomon Islands says that its trade is sustainable, the science says something else.  I hope I can report tomorrow that science trumped politics.

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