Endangered species trade: Canadian framework negotiating mandate

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is an international agreement aiming to ensure that international trade of wild animal and plant species does not threaten their survival while allowing economic gain through the sustainable use of natural resources. Canada has committed to a principles-based approach for its participation in the Conference of the Parties (CoP) to CITES. These principles include: the continued sustainable use of wildlife resources, the reliance on the best available scientific information for decisions, ensuring that decisions are practical and enforceable and benefit the conservation of the species. As a result, Canada maintained its strong reputation for being a constructive CITES partner and demonstrated its leadership in sustainable wildlife management. While the majority of species on the CoP agenda were not of direct concern to Canadian stakeholders as the CoP decisions would not have altered Canada’s harvest or trade, the Government of Canada is a strong supporter of the global efforts in the conservation and sustainable use of wild fauna and flora. Effective participation in these types of global fora reaffirms Canada’s global commitment consistent with our domestic efforts to conserve and protect wildlife.

A Strategic Environmental Assessment conducted for this initiative concluded that the Canadian framework negotiating mandate for meetings of the CITES CoP will a have positive policy impact in Canada and globally. By advancing the principles using the best available scientific information, Canada would help advance the sustainable use of natural resources. Canada would be able to implement the framework negotiating mandate with no negative effect on the conservation of Canadian species.

Canada will implement the framework negotiating mandate while ensuring the trade does not negatively impact the conservation of species in the wild. With this approach, Canada will be well-positioned to effectively respond should future agendas for the Conference of Parties include species of concern to Canadians, including Indigenous Peoples.

This strategy would ensure that a specific negotiating mandate for species proposals of significance to Canada would be obtained from Cabinet when warranted. For each CoP, ECCC would seek the advice from appropriate experts, including Indigenous organizations and federal CITES partners, in advance of the CoP to determine if there are significant environmental, trade, social or economic impacts that would affect Canadians or Indigenous groups. In the event that no major Canadian issues can be identified on the CoP agenda, Canada will use the framework negotiating mandate to make decisions and vote at the CITES CoP.

The set of standard principles that Canada uses in order to facilitate consistent, predictable and transparent decision-making at the CoP include:

  • Science based decision-making
  • Respect for the CITES international trade mandate
  • Promote the sustainable use of species
  • Complement other conservation actions
  • Ensuring decisions are practical and enforceable

These principles ensure that Canada uses the best available scientific information to support the sustainable use of natural resources, particularly for those who depend on it for livelihoods. Using the best available scientific information will also ensure that decisions are understood and respected by a broad range of interested parties, institutions and organizations. CITES can regulate species affected by trade very well, however, it is not an effective tool at managing species at risk from other threats. Canada is also careful to ensure that CoP decisions are practical for those who implement the convention including wildlife enforcement, border control and permit reviewers.

Decisions made by voting Parties at CoPs determine changes to the levels of trade in CITES-regulated species. These decisions will not affect how species are managed or harvested in Canada, however, may change the ability of species to enter commercial trade with potential economic impacts for Canadians. Interested parties will have the opportunity to input on Canada’s positions in the year leading up to each CoP.

CITES decisions are made to ensure trade in wildlife is not harmful to the species populations in the wild. Canada is confidant that wildlife harvest is sustainably managed by the provinces/territories which ensures that any subsequent trade of legally harvested wild species will not change the status of the species in the wild. In addition, the majority of CITES trade does not affect wild populations (example: artificially propagated or captive-bred specimens). Those with evidence of serious declines (species at risk) are not found in CITES-regulated trade from the wild.

This mandate meets many of the goals outlined in the 2016-2019 FSDS including Modern and Resilient Infrastructure, Healthy Wildlife Populations, Healthy Coasts and Oceans and Sustainably Managed Lands and Forests. Specifically, under Healthy Wildlife Populations, Canada has outlined the need to uphold international commitments related to wildlife (work with international partners to protect and conserve species at risk and fulfill Canada’s obligations under international agreements). Canada’s participation using a consistent set of principles also garners respect and trust from other international parties. The long-term FSDS goal that all species have healthy and viable populations and that secure species remain secure and species at risk exhibit stabilizing trends are completely in line with the goals of the implementation of CITES in Canada. Canada’s principle of supporting sustainable use of wildlife products where sustainable (including marine invertebrate/fish stocks and forest products) also ensures economic growth and social inclusion as outlined in the Modern and Resilient Infrastructure goal of the FSDS as CITES positions are developed to allow economic gain where species would not be harmed in future by trade decisions.

ECCC is also continually working with partners from provinces and territories, other federal departments as well as seeking input from the Canadian public, stakeholders and Indigenous groups. This ensures that Canada’s negotiations at CoP benefits from local knowledge and uses and the input from those closest to the species in the wild.

The Canadian framework negotiating mandate for meetings of the CITES CoP will have positive policy impact in Canada and globally. By advancing the principles using the best available scientific information, Canada would help advance the sustainable use of natural resources. Decisions made by voting Parties at CoPs may change the ability of species to enter commercial trade with potential economic impacts for Canadians. Canada’s principles support positions that allow sustainable use where there are economic, cultural or social roles that may benefit the conservation of the species.

ECCC-CWS is the lead for implementation of CITES in Canada and will be responsible for national reporting and follow-up. ECCC submits an annual Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act (WAPPRIITA) report which summarizes the implementation of CITES in Canada (trade, permit issuance and non-detriment findings) as well as compliance/enforcement activities, Canada’s level of international cooperation and participation/leadership and other ongoing review processes under the convention. The annual report is prepared in collaboration with all relevant government departments.

Canada will take stock of implementation through its national reporting process for adaptive management. Results will be publicly reported on ECCC CITES dedicated website.

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