Wild animal and plant trade and protection act 2019 annual report: chapter 5

5. International cooperation

5.1 CITES Conferences of the Parties

The CITES Conference of the Parties (CoP) meets once every three years. During the period between meetings of the CoP, the Animals Committee, the Plants Committee and the Standing Committee implement directives received from the preceding CoP and prepare for the next CoP.

The 18th meeting of the CITES Conference of the Parties (CoP18) took place on August 17 to 28, 2019 in Geneva, Switzerland.

Canada initiated a public consultation process approximately one year prior to the CoP18 that included a dedicated CITES web page to inform stakeholders, Indigenous groups and the Canadian public of the ongoing consultation process, extensive email distribution and a posting in the Canada Gazette in January 2019 inviting stakeholders, Indigenous groups and the Canadian public to submit comments on the CoP18 proposals.

A public consultation meeting was also held in Ottawa on February 26-27, 2019 to discuss the CoP18 proposals. The meeting was attended by non-government organizations, industry associations, other federal departments and interested members of the public. ECCC highlighted during the consultation that Canada uses a consistent scientific principles-based approach to decision-making at CITES CoPs, and that based on the scientific data, Canada will not support the listing of species to the CITES Appendices where it is clear that the species’ survival is not negatively impacted by trade or where species do not meet the CITES biological criteria for listing in the Appendices. The Canadian positions on species proposals and working documents were developed through consultation with government agencies and stakeholders. Species proposals were carefully reviewed and the information was evaluated against the CITES listing criteria.

Canada's negotiating positions and CoP outcomes are posted on the Government of Canada website.

Canada submitted two documents to CoP18:

  1. To seek an amendment to reduce CITES controls for trade in rosewood tree products.
    Canada, with the European Union as co-proponent, submitted a proposal as recommendation from the Standing Committee, to amend the conditions for trade in finished products of CITES listed rosewood tree species (most Dalbergia species and three Guibourtia species). Rosewood trees do not occur naturally in Canada. However, it is used in 90% of all guitars and is commonly used for bagpipes, clarinets, flutes, and woodworking tools. Controls on finished products increase administrative burden on countries with no conservation benefit on the species. The amended proposal was adopted by consensus.
  2. To propose development of guidance relating to presentation of CITES listing decisions in the CITES Appendices.
    Canada proposed the development of guidance to address and standardize the presentation of the CITES Appendices. Such guidance would be useful to Canada and other similar countries that incorporate changes to the CITES Appendices directly into their legislation, by improving predictability and transparency of how the Appendices are presented. The decisions, with amendments proposed by the CITES Secretariat and China were adopted by CoP18. This work will be undertaken by the CITES Secretariat and CITES Committees during the CoP18 – CoP19 Intersessional period.
Burmese rosewood

Other items of interest to Canada at CoP18 included proposals to list the Woolly Mammoth and two Mako shark species on Appendix II.

The Woolly Mammoth is an extinct species found as a fossil in Canada and is traded internationally as an elephant ivory substitute. It was proposed for listing as a look-alike species to better address illegal trade in elephant ivory. The proposal was withdrawn by the proponent following lack of support from the Parties during the discussions. The withdrawal was accompanied by a request for the Parties to approve two draft decisions to study the trade in mammoth ivory and its potential contribution to the illegal trade in elephant ivory and the poaching of elephants. Canada did not support the proposal or the draft decisions. There is sufficient evidence that regulating trade in Woolly mammoth ivory will result in a permitting burden that is unlikely to have a positive conservation outcome for elephant populations. The decisions were adopted by consensus and Canada did not want to block consensus.

Canada originally opposed the proposal to list Mako sharks (Shortfin mako and Longfin mako) on Appendix II as the species did not meet the biological criteria for inclusion in Appendix II. However, during the meeting, Canada decided to take a precautionary approach and support this proposal based on new preliminary information suggesting that certain parts of the distribution may be at greater risk to fishing pressure than previously thought. The proposal was adopted by vote.

CITES provides that amendments to Appendices I and II adopted at a meeting of the CoP shall enter into force 90 days after that meeting for all Parties (for CoP18, this is November 26, 2019), except for those Parties who make a reservation. Many Parties have difficulty meeting this short timeline. Following CoP18, Canada submitted a temporary reservation to the CITES Depository Government (Switzerland) to ensure Canada’s compliance with the Convention while Canada completes its domestic treaty implementation process. By entering this reservation, Canada has indicated it will not be bound by the CoP18 amendments to the CITES Appendices until such a time as it has completed its domestic treaty implementation process.

5.2 CITES committees and working groups

Canada participates in a number of committees and working groups to foster ongoing cooperation with international partners under the Convention. In particular, the meetings of the CITES Standing Committee, the Plants Committee and the Animals Committee are instrumental in developing international policy for the implementation of the Convention. Decisions made by these bodies may affect Canada’s obligations under CITES and greatly influence the decisions ultimately adopted by the CoP. It is therefore important that Canadian concerns be heard in these forums.

Members of these committees are elected for each CITES region after every CoP. Canada is part of the North American region, along with the United States and Mexico. After CoP18 an official from ECC was elected as the alternate member for the Animals Committee, and Canada continues to represent the North American region on the Standing Committee. In addition, Ms. Carolina Caceres from Canada was re-elected as Chair of the Standing Committee.

5.3 International cooperation in enforcement operations

In June 2019, ECCC’s enforcement officers participated in INTERPOL’s Operation Thunderball, an international enforcement effort in collaboration with the World Customs Organization, aimed at cracking down on wildlife crime including smuggling, poaching and trafficking. The month-long operation involved 109 countries and resulted in the seizures of tens of thousands of protected plants and animals worldwide, as well as products derived from them. This is the largest number of countries ever to coordinate efforts simultaneously on an environmental crime issue.

The operation in Canada 

ECCC’s enforcement officers responded to over 100 complaints and tips received from the public concerning habitat and wildlife destruction. Enforcement officers also conducted dozens of inspections, enforcement activities and hunter checks, and led a series of border-crossing blitzes to look for evidence of illegal exports of Canadian species as well as illegal imports of exotic species.

Over the course of the operation, officers intercepted items such as pangolin carcasses, saiga antelope, sturgeon caviar, diet pills containing hoodia (an endangered African plant species), a wallet made with crocodile skin, and black bear bacula, testes and paws, among other items. In six incidents, compliance orders were issued to protect species at risk in Canada.

images of saiga antelope, crocrodile, hoodia, pangolin

Worldwide, the initial results of Operation Thunderball have led to the identification of almost 600 suspects, triggering arrests. Further arrests and prosecutions are foreseen as ongoing global investigations progress.

Global seizures reported include:

Source: Canada participates in largest-ever international enforcement operation to crack down on wildlife crime

5.4 United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime

ECCC collaborates with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime to exchange experiences and best practices in preventing and combatting wildlife and forest crime among countries in the Americas; get a better understanding of the relation between wildlife and forest crime and organized crime in the Americas; and identify potential joint strategies and activities for cooperation.
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