African-Eurasian Waterbird Agreement; CITES COP11: briefing

Tourism

04 April 2000
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Meeting report

ENVIRONMENTAL AFFAIRS AND TOURISM PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE
4 April 2000
BRIEFING ON THE AFRICAN EURASIAN WATERBIRD AGREEMENT (AEWA) AND CITES COP11

 

Documents:
Briefing notes on AEWA
AEWA-Agreement Text
Convention on International Trade
in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora
CITES COP11
[e-mail linden@iafrica.com for these documents]

 

SUMMARY
Briefing on African Eurasian Waterbirds Agreement (AEWA) by Ms. Njobe, Director of Biodiversity and Heritage and Dr. Botha, Deputy Director
As per Cabinet recommendation, South Africa has signed the AEWA on 27 October 1999. The next step is to ratify the Agreement, and the Department was asking for the approval of the Portfolio Committee.

AEWA is an Agreement under the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (or the Bonn Convention). The Convention, to which South Africa has been a party since 1991, provides a framework within which Governments may work together to conserve migratory species and their habitats. The Convention is not opposed to the use of natural resources, but supports sustainable use.

AEWA covers a large area of the globe, from the North Pole to South Africa, with South Africa being at the end of the flyway of a large number of migratory species. The species use the wetlands of South Africa as an area to winter during the harsh conditions of the Northern Hemisphere. These include the white stork, great white pelican, glossy ibis, greater and lesser flamingo, a large number of duck species, and sea birds such as gulls and terns.

The Agreement states that the Parties shall

  • provide strict conservation measures for endangered waterbird species.
  • ensure use of these species is based upon the best available knowledge of their ecology and is sustainable for the species and the habitat.
  • identify sites and habitats for these species and encourage the protection, management, rehabilitation and restoration of these sites.
  • co-ordinate efforts to ensure that a network of habitats throughout a range of a species is maintained.
  • investigate problems that are posed or likely to be posed by humans on the conservation of these species
  • co-operate in emergency situations.
  • Prohibit the introduction of non-native waterbird species which could detrimentally impact on the conservation of the species or its habitat.
  • Initiate and support research into the biology and ecology of migratory waterbird species.
  • Analyse the training needs in the country, such as waterbird surveys, monitoring, ringing and wetland management.
  • Develop and maintain awareness programmes
  • Exchange information and results from research, surveys and monitoring actions.

The Agreement calls for an Action Plan to tackle these issues. The co-ordination of these functions will be undertaken by an existing component of the Department, and the implementation will be undertaken by existing structures in the provincial governments. The Department noted that since most of the functions are already being carried out, there would not be much additional work involved beyond the provision of reports. The Department favors the Agreement as a means of focusing attention on migratory species and firming up policy.

The financial implication is an annual contribution of R60,000. The position of Head of the Secretariat is currently being advertised and will be co-located with the Convention Secretariat in Bonn.

The Committee unanimously recommended that the House approve the Agreement.

However, there was an extensive discussion about the impact of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs) which ranged beyond the ratification of AEWA.

The Department acknowledged that the GMO Act needs to be re-evaluated. There is an intent to ask the Department of Agriculture to amend the Act or to provide for gaps via the Biosafety Protocol which is still to be ratified. However, Ms Verwoerd stressed the need for a multidisciplinary approach which would draw in departments other than agriculture - such as environmental affairs and health. Ms Njobe agreed with the co-operative governance approach and added that the approach to developing a new policy should include more public participation and debate.

Briefing on CITES CoP11

This briefing was for informational purposes only, on the eve of the delegation's departure for the conference that will be held in Nairobi from 10-20 April.

There are two South African proposals that will be put to CoP11.

The first is not controversial, and proposes that the Colophon Beetle be placed on Appendix III. Collectors pay up to US$10,000 per animal, and there is a fear that this will lead to their endangerment. Appendix III would simply call for an awareness of the problem and for assistance in conservation.

The second proposal, asking that the South African elephant population be downgraded to Appendix II to allow for limited trade in live animals and by-products, is more controversial.

The Department outlined the following in support of the proposal:

  1. Conservation of biodiversity. Elephants are not an isolated species and can be destructive.
  2. The South African elephant population is viable and growing.
  3. South Africa's management program is effective and renowned.
  4. South Africa has an effective law enforcement program, and in fact is one of the few countries to have a dedicated policing service.
  5. The benefits of the trade - R30 million - will be used for conservation purposes, specifically: the acquisition of additional range land, improved law enforcement, and research and monitoring resources. There will also be indirect community benefits.

 

Discussion

The Department clarified that the sale of ivory would be limited to the stockpile in Kruger National Park, and that it is too early to discuss other ivory stocks. On the other hand, the proposal to trade in hide and leather goods does not specify any source, because the sale of leather goods presents an opportunity for entrepreneurs. This will not stimulate poaching because it is not feasible to poach elephants for their hides alone.

The Department was asked about its position in response to a concern that is sure to be raised at the Conference: the fact that monitoring systems are not yet in place. They responded that fully operative monitoring systems have never been a CITES pre-requisite for trade, only that there be an agreement on such a mechanism. Nevertheless, MIKE (Monitoring the Illegal Killing of Elephants) will be implemented in the four SADC countries, even though it is still in a pilot phase in West Africa. They expect the first reports from Kruger National Park by the end of July. The Department also pointed out that no direct link between legal trade and poaching has ever been established, and they believe that other factors such as hunger and political instability make this a more complex issue.

With respect to the proposals by other countries that relate to Minke Whales, the South African delegation will be having discussions with experts at the CoP in order to develop a position. Their concerns relate to capacity for law enforcement and the relationship to the International Whaling Commission (IWC).

It is important to note the difference between the whale and elephant proposals:

If the Minke proposals succeed, each Party to CITES, except those that are part of the IWC, will be able to trade in the whales, whereas the elephant proposal is limited to the South African elephant population.

The Cuban proposal to trade stockpiled shells of the hawksbill turtle is attractive to the Department, to the extent that it is similar in concept to the elephant proposal. However, the monitoring system is not as developed and delegates will be exchanging these concerns with the Cubans.

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