The first national workshop on strengthening the implementation of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) hosted by the Government of Tonga was held from 17-19 June at the Tanoa Hotel in Nuku’alofa, Tonga.
More than 25 participants from key government ministries and local NGOs from Tongatapu, Vava’u and Ha’apai attended the workshop. The CITES Management Authorities from New Zealand and Vanuatu were also present to share their experiences, as they have been Parties to CITES since around 1990.
The workshop was coordinated by the CITES Secretariat in collaboration with the Ministry of Meteorology, Energy, Information, Disaster Management, Climate Change and Communications (MEIDECC), The Pew Charitable Trusts and the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP).
The main objectives were to bring together the relevant stakeholders from the Scientific, Management and Enforcement Authorities to ensure a better understanding and knowledge of their roles and responsibilities, including management, monitoring and reporting of the international trade of species that would help strengthen the implementation of the Convention.
As a new Party to the Convention, the workshop also focused on the national legislation of Tonga to ensure that existing legislation is fully compliant with the CITES requirements. Hands-on training was also provided for the technical participants on the identification of CITES listed shark species.
In his opening remarks at the workshop, Mr. Paula Mau, Chief Executive Officer for MEIDECC, stressed the importance of the workshop, which brings relevant stakeholders together to identify respective roles and responsibilities, raise awareness on the Convention and reporting requirements.
“It is critical to strengthen the implementation of CITES in Tonga especially noting that the government departments are small in size and the capacity remains a critical issue with one or two people dealing with Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEA). However, we have been working collaboratively with environment, fisheries, police and customs in implementing our various obligations, and I’m sure we will do the same with implementing CITES,” said Paula Mau.
Ms. Haruko Okusu, CITES Secretariat, noted that Tonga is home to over 400 CITES-listed species, many of which are corals and other marine species. She stressed that illegal and unsustainable trade can pose a serious risk to the species, people and businesses in Tonga. Ms. Okusu emphasized the importance of this national workshop, which is dedicated to bringing awareness and understanding of the roles and responsibilities of the relevant government authorities implementing CITES in Tonga, who are tasked to ensure that international trade of wildlife is legal, sustainable and traceable.
Ms. Juney Ward, Shark and Ray Conservation Officer of the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) stated that the training and workshop were “very important as it demonstrates Tonga’s commitment to protect its wildlife from the impacts of unsustainable international trade.”
The workshop included representatives from the management, scientific and enforcement authorities, as well as other non-governmental and community stakeholders.
This workshop was funded by the European Union and implemented by the CITES Secretariat.
For more information on this workshop, please contact Ms. Juney Ward at [email protected].