CITES Marine Fish Workshop opens in Australia


Dr Matthew Bond of OATA presenting at the CITES marine fish workshop Dr Matthew Bond presents the industry framework at the CITES marine workshop
The global ornamental aquatics industry unites at Australian workshop to push for conservation of marine species.

The global ornamental aquatics industry is making its pitch this week at a special workshop taking place in Brisbane, Australia (7 to 10 May) for its proposal on how the international community can support the marine fish species most in need of conservation.

Trade representatives are joining NGOs, exporting countries and Government representatives in a CITES workshop to look at the trade and conservation of marine fish species, concentrating on coral reef fishes.

UK involvement

UK trade body OATA and global association OFI are presenting their proposal for a flexible framework that can be used by CITES to look at the 1,000+ marine species in trade to determine which require further investigation into their vulnerability to harvest to establish if trade is sustainable or if they need management measures to ensure their conservation.

“This framework is based on an in-depth analysis of the actual species in trade, using data supplied by the industry rather than import data which we know has major flaws in it,” explained OATA Chief Executive Dominic Whitmee.

“This ensures priority can be focused on those species that are actively traded and are most biologically vulnerable to over-harvest. Our framework provides a flexible solution to enable CITES Parties to decide how to focus resources on the species most in need of further attention which is what we all want.”

OFI President Shane Willis added: “As part of this work we also reviewed all the global regulations and management measures currently in place for marine fish species to prove that our industry is far from being the uncontrolled and unregulated trade that is often claimed.

"However, we are concerned that key exporting countries and small nations are not represented at the workshop and we hope the Secretariat will make efforts to engage them before any decisions are taken. Otherwise this risks yet another scenario where developed Western nations impose poorly informed opinions on less developed nations without a full and proper understanding or recognition of the issues they face.

"It is crucial to involve range states in any decision making from this workshop, along with the fishing communities who will be most affected by any decisions.”

The workshop is also likely to hear counter proposals from anti-trade NGOs whose aim is to limit the fish species that can be traded in the home aquarium industry.

The proposed framework has the support of global pet trade bodies including: Asociacion Espanola de la Industria y el Comercio del Sector del Animal de Compania (Spain), Dibevo (the Netherlands), European Pet Organization (Europe), Norges Zoohandlers Bransjeforening (Norway), Pet Advocacy Network (USA), Pets Canada (Canada), Pet Industry Association of Australia (Australia), Sustainable Users’ Network (UK), Wirtschaftskammer Österreich (Austria) and Zoobranschens Riksförbund (Sweden).

This work project was first launched by CITES in 2019 following a proposal from the European Union, Switzerland and the United States of America, prompted by Fondation Franz Weber which has a campaign to stop the marine ornamental trade.

Find out more about the workshop and read the industry framework paper on OATA’s website.