Fishy Conservation Efforts

NAIROBI – If you happen to be a salamander known as the Iranian Kaiser spotted newt, chances are that things may be looking up. Governments at the recent meeting in Doha of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) voted for a trade ban on Iranian Kaisers, alongside tougher protection for a host of land-living creatures.

But if you are a blue-fin tuna of the western Atlantic stock, your mood will be decidedly more pessimistic. It is a similar story for several species of shark, including the oceanic white-tip, scalloped hammerhead, and the great and spiny dogfish. Despite strong scientific evidence showing sharp declines in the populations of all three, every proposal for tougher trade controls on these marine species – along with more than 30 species of coral – failed to secure the necessary two-thirds majority.

In the case of the western Atlantic stock of blue-fin tuna, several countries argued that the existing management body – the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT) – is best placed to manage the stock. Others who proposed tougher trade rules were not convinced – and with good reason.

Stocks of this highly prized fish have declined by up to 80% since the dawn of industrialized fishing, and this has been on ICCAT’s watch. In the case of sharks and rays, a recent survey indicates that close to one-third of the 64 ocean-living species are on the verge of extinction.