Economic Interests Trump Scientists' Recommendations to Protect Marine Species at CoP15
This month's meeting of CITES rejected trade regulations of red and pink corals (Coralliidae) and a ban on trade in Atlantic bluefin tuna (below), despite scientists' recommendations for the regulations and even though the IUCN already classifies bluefin as critically endangered. Marco Carè/Marine Photobank
In spite of recommendations from scientists and conservationists, member nations voting at the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) 15th Convention of Parties (CoP15) in Doha, Qatar, failed to approve placing 32 species of red and pink corals (Corrallidae) under Appendix II of the convention. The proposal for trade protections secured the support of a plurality of those voting (64 votes in favor and 59 against, with 10 abstentions) but fell short of the required two-thirds majority.
This followed a failure to list bluefin tuna under Appendix I, even though the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List classifies the species as critically endangered, and despite overwhelming scientific evidence that levels of take of Northern Atlantic bluefin are not sustainable. At the 2009 meeting International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna (ICCAT) meeting, the catch limit was reduced from 32,000 to 13,500 metric tons, short of the ICCAT scientists' recommendation to reduce the catch to 8,000 metric tons or less to allow the population to recover.
Marco Carè/Marine Photobank
"For the second time in three days, governments have put short-term political and economic interests ahead of sound science—first with bluefin tuna and now with red and pink coral," said Kristian Teleki, SeaWeb's vice president of science initiatives, who is attending the meeting. "Coralliidae are in desperate need of a mechanism that controls the immense trade in these species. CITES could have provided that, but today the representatives failed to heed the science showing these populations are in steep decline. It is now up to the jewelry and design industries, and their customers, to act where governments have failed."
SeaWeb's Too Precious to Wear campaign is calling on jewelers and designers to refuse to use or purchase red and pink coral until sound management is in place and populations of these long-lived, slow-growing species have recovered.
Hammerhead and oceanic whitetip sharks, which had been proposed for listing under Appendix II, were also denied protection in initial votes today, March 23. These species are hunted primarily for their fins, which are made into soup. At time of publication, however, it was possible their fate could come up for another vote later in the meeting. Porbeagle sharks, which are hunted for their fins and meat, were listed on Appendix II; however, spiny dogfish, which are also targeted for meat, were denied that protection.
For detailed coverage from the meeting, visit SeaWeb's blog at seawebvoicesinaction.blogspot.com.
Commercial Fisheries Affecting the World's Poor
The activities of large-scale commercial fishing operations are causing severe economic and social impacts on many small-scale fisheries, such as this one in Mauritania. Marco Carè/Marine Photobank
When fishing nations at the 15th Conference of Parties (CoP15) of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) defeated a proposal to protect bluefin tuna, they did so by recruiting a number of developing nations and arguing that limiting fishing would have dire economic consequences for fishing communities. However, overfishing by large-scale commercial operations can have severe economic and social impacts on small-scale fishing communities, particularly in developing nations.
This is a concern that is addressed by a study in a recent edition of the journal Ambio. The article's authors, Stephen Hall of The Worldfish Center in Malaysia and colleagues, point out that 70 percent of the world's fish catch is from developing countries, of which more than half comes from small-scale fisheries that employ as many as 24 million full-time and part-time fishermen and as many as 70 million others involved in post-catch work such as processing, distribution and selling. However, many of these small-scale fisheries are collapsing, in significant part from pressures put on them from larger fishing operations.
The authors point out that whereas fish consumption is often a lifestyle choice for consumers in affluent nations, for the poor of developing countries, wild-caught fish provide one of the very few options for eating animal protein. In Africa, for example, 200 million people obtain between 22 and 70 percent of their dietary animal protein from eating fish.
Although demand may be higher in developing countries, supply is lower and decreasing. Whereas global fish consumption increased from 26 to 35 pounds (12 to 16 kilograms) per person per year, in sub-Saharan Africa it fell from 20 to 14.5 pounds (9 to 6.6 kilograms) per capita annually.
The consequences extend beyond declines in nutrition. The loss of income and declining employment opportunities from small-scale fisheries can make those involved in such fishing more vulnerable to becoming involved in crime; Hall and colleagues write that fishing boats are "frequently implicated in weapons trafficking, people smuggling and drug running."
The authors offer a series of principles to help guide investment in small-scale fisheries and improve the well-being of those who rely on them, from supporting a diversification of livelihoods in small-scale fishing communities to supporting technology development that enables safer, more efficient and less wasteful fishing.
"We would do well to remember that much of the fisheries story is about small boats, hunger and poverty," they conclude. "This is a story that also needs to be told and acted upon."
Source: Hall, S.J., et al. 2010. The end of the line: Who is most at risk from the crisis in global fisheries? Ambio DOI 10.1007/s13280-009-0008-5
Contact: Stephen J. Hall, The Worldfish Center, Malaysia. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Mice Attacking Threatened Albatross Chicks
Mice introduced on sub-Antarctic Marion Island are preying on wandering albatross chicks, which could impact the population's survival. Mark Jobling
Albatross chicks on two sub-Antarctic islands are suffering sometimes-fatal attacks from unlikely predators: house mice. Writing in a recent edition of the journal Antarctic Science, Genevieve Jones and Peter Ryan of the University of Cape Town have found evidence of mouse attacks on chicks of wandering and sooty albatrosses on Marion Island in the southern Indian Ocean. The attacks have been noticed only recently—since 2003 on wandering albatross chicks, and only since 2009 on sooty albatrosses—and to this point are relatively few in number. Less than one percent of the wandering albatrosses on the island have suffered injuries, and only half have been fatal. However, Jones and Ryan note that Marion Island is home to 22 percent of the world's breeding population of wandering albatrosses and 9 percent of the global total of dark-mantled sooty albatrosses, and that both species are already under threat from entanglement in fishing gear, primarily longlines.
In addition, mouse attacks have already grown into a significant problem on Gough Island in the South Atlantic. A 2004 study found that only 27.7 percent of Tristan albatross eggs and 19.9 percent of eggs laid by Atlantic petrels were producing fledged chicks, a low percentage that the study's authors ascribed to predation by mice. Three years later, another study concluded that "unmitigated predation by mice could contribute to the local extinction of Tristan albatrosses and Atlantic petrels."
According to Jones and Ryan, the mice were likely introduced to Marion Island by sealers in the 18th and early 19th centuries, and grew rapidly in number, prompting the introduction of cats in 1949. However, a rapidly expanding feral cat population preyed on petrels and even caused the local extinction of some species; as a result, cats were eradicated from the island by 1993. That eased the direct pressure on the petrels, but as the only introduced mammal on the island, the mice were left without any predators.
The authors conclude that their findings underline that mice have significantly more impact on native wildlife when they are the only introduced mammal on an island and that the mice on Marion Island should be eradicated.
Source: Jones, M.G.W., and P.G. Ryan. 2010. Evidence of mouse attacks on albatross chicks on sub-Antarctic Marion Island. Antarctic Science 22(1): 39-42.
Contact: Genevieve Jones, University of Cape Town. E-mail: MgenevieveWJones@gmail.com
Seabirds Most at Risk from Climate Change
Atlantic puffins are among the bird species most at risk from altered marine food webs caused by global climate change. Hemming Allmers
Oceanic birds are more at risk from the effects of climate change than other bird species in the United States, according to a recently released report.
The State of the Birds, a collaboration of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, the U.S. Geological Survey and leading conservation organizations including the National Audubon Society states that all 67 oceanic bird species in the United States—albatrosses, puffins, petrels, terns, frigatebirds and tropicbirds—are among the most at-risk birds in the world because they rely on rapidly changing ecosystems, they raise relatively few young and many of them are already threatened by human activities such as overfishing and entanglement. For example, seabirds such as the Laysan albatross and Bonin petrel that are restricted to nesting on low-lying islands will be at risk from sea level rise. Beach-nesting terns and specialized species such as saltmarsh sparrows also will be vulnerable as rising sea levels inundate or fragment low-lying habitats such as salt marshes, sandy beaches, barrier islands and mudflats. More frequent and severe storms will damage the habitat of coastal birds, while warmer water temperatures will cause changes in marine food webs, affecting the bird species that depend on them.
The report urges reducing existing threats from overfishing, fisheries bycatch and pollution and taking proactive measures such as removing invasive species and protecting existing or potential breeding colonies on high islands, to "provide oceanic bird populations with the best chances of adapting to climate change."
Source: North American Bird Conservation Initiative, U.S. Committee. 2010. The State of the Birds 2010 Report on Climate Change, United States of America. U.S. Department of the Interior: Washington, D.C.
For Further Information: The full report, summaries, press releases and contact information can be found online at www.stateofthebirds.org/
Read past issues of Ocean Update in the archive >>