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Media Release
Minister for the Environment and Heritage
Dr David Kemp

27 October 2002

Australia to Fight for Protection of Toothfish at CITES, Santiago, Chile


Australia will take a global lead to better protect endangered and threatened species at the 12th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) commencing next week in Santiago, Chile.

Dr Kemp said that protection under CITES would help protect species that are threatened with or vulnerable to extinction which are, or may be, affected by trade in the species.

"In addition to nominating the Patagonian and Antarctic Toothfish for listing onto Appendix II of the Convention, Australia will also be supporting the proposals to list freshwater turtles onto Appendix II and will be strongly opposing Japan's proposal to downgrade the protection for the Bryde's and Minke Whales from Appendix I to Appendix II.

Australia is nominating the toothfish due to the "gold rush" scale illegal fishing that is occurring in sub-Antarctic waters where the fish are to be found. This illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing will threaten the viability of the legal fishery in three to five years if urgent measures are not adopted by both CCAMLR and CITES.

"As these fish can fetch prices up to $100 per kilogram on international markets they are under increasing pressure from illegal fishing. If the nomination is successful, 159 countries worldwide will impose strict trade regulation on toothfish cargoes entering their ports, demanding certification that the catch is legal.

"Australia will also support 12 proposals to list a number of freshwater turtle species, including the Big-headed Turtle, Annam Pond Turtle, Malayan Giant Turtle and Sulawesi Forest Turtle. These proposals have the support of countries where these species are found and were developed through a CITES-sponsored workshop.

"Unfortunately, not all proposals would help protect threatened marine species. We are strongly opposing a proposal by Japan to downgrade the listings for Minke and Bryde's Whales. If this proposal by Japan is successful, it would be inconsistent with the International Whaling Commission's moratorium prohibiting the commercial hunt of whales. And it is likely that Japan, Iceland and Norway would argue that they could recommence trade in whale products, increasing the threats to the successful recovery of whale populations.

Australia has been building international momentum for greater protection of whales, particularly in the South Pacific region.

Most recently Australia was successful in listing six species of great whales onto the Convention of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS). This followed from a meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) earlier in the year where Australia achieved the highest number of votes for the Declaration of a South Pacific Whale Sanctuary, although the vote was less than the required three-quarters majority needed to establish the sanctuary.

"Our successful listing of the Antarctic Minke, Brydes, Fin, Pigmy Right, Sei and Sperm whales onto the CMS will now open the door for us to begin consultations with other nations in our region to establish a Memorandum of Understanding on the conservation and management of all migratory marine mammals that move through the South Pacific and that are listed on the CMS.

"While the IWC addresses the issues surrounding whale hunting, the CMS targets actions that can be taken relating to the migrations of the great whales. These actions could include developing and implementing whale watching guidelines, non-lethal research programs and implementing by-catch mitigation strategies.

"The Australian delegation will also be taking a strong and proactive role to increase the global protection afforded to a number of shark species. We will support the listing of both the Whale Shark and the Basking Shark, as well as putting forward a joint proposal with Ecuador calling on countries to adopt enhanced measures and strategies to ensure the protection of sharks.

"I look forward to seeing the outcomes of the Conference of Parties and urge all members countries to stand with Australia to protect these magnificent marine species," Dr Kemp said.

More information on CITES can be found at http://www.ea.gov.au/biodiversity/trade-use/cites/index.html or see the attached fact sheet for an explanation for the levels of protection provided under the CITES appendices.

Media contact:
Catherine Job (02) 6277 7640 or 0408 648 400


Fact Sheet on Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) Appendices

Appendix I covers all species threatened with extinction which are, or may be, affected by trade in the species. Under CITES, trade in these species can only occur after the proper permits have been obtained, and these permits should only be authorised in exceptional circumstances. Permits are needed both to export and import specimens listed under Appendix I. Essentially commercial trade in Appendix I species is totally prohibited.

Appendix II covers species not currently threatened with extinction but may become so unless trade is subject to strict regulation. An export permit is required to export Appendix II specimens. CITES Appendix II also includes some non-threatened species, in order to prevent threatened species from being traded under the guise of non-threatened species that are similar in appearance. Commercial trade in Appendix II species is only permitted where management plans are in force.

Appendix III covers those species identified by contracting parties as 'being subject to regulation within its jurisdiction for the purpose of preventing or restricting exploitation, and as needing the cooperation of other parties in the control of trade.' Again, export permits are required. Australia nominated the great white shark which was listed on Appendix III on 10 October 2001.

Commonwealth of Australia