20 September 2023, Honiara Solomon Islands - The Government of the Solomon Islands has renewed its commitment to the implementation of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
The commitment was made by Dr. Melchior Mataki, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Environment Climate Change, Disaster and Meteorology (MECDM), following a week-long technical mission by the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) and the CITES Secretariat to provide compliance support in the implementation of CITES on key species.
“The Solomon Islands government renews its commitment in the implementation of the Convention, and hopes to find a solution towards removing trade suspensions from birdwing butterflies, giant clams and the monkey tailed skink to enable trade to resume in the future,” said Dr. Mataki.
The technical mission comprised of Ms Karen Baird, SPREP’s Threatened and Migratory Species Adviser, Haruko Okusu and Hyeon Jeong Kim from the CITES Secretariat in Geneva, who met various stakeholders in the Solomon including Ministry officials, representatives of NGOs and wildlife traders.
The meetings provided the stakeholders in the Solomon Islands with an overview of the CITES convention, roles and responsibilities of each of the CITES authorities – Management and Scientific authorities as well as the enforcement agencies.
The meetings also discussed the long-term trade suspensions on some CITES-listed species in the Solomon Islands, coming from the Review of Significant Trade process. There were also sessions with traders to discuss their needs and challenges and with The Nature Conservancy.
The mission constitutes the preliminary step of the CITES Compliance Assistance Programme, to assess compliance needs and challenges and to develop a comprehensive work plan. Funding to support this mission and SPREP’s engagement was made possible through Phase 3 Project on Capacity Building related to Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs) inAfrica, Caribbean and the Pacific (ACP) Countries (ACP MEA Phase 3 Project).
At the end of the week, the joint SPREP-CITES team worked with MECDM, which is the CITES Management Authority, to develop a work plan to assist the Solomon Islands CITES authorities over the coming year, realised through the financial support from the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.
Mr. Josef Hurutarau, Acting Director of the Environment and Conservation Division of MECDM, welcomed the work of the technical mission, noting that “sustainable trade in wildlife is an important source of income for the Solomon Islands.”
CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) is an international agreement between governments. Its aim is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten the survival of the species.
Annually, international wildlife trade is estimated to be worth billions of dollars and to include hundreds of millions of plant and animal specimens. The trade is diverse, ranging from live animals and plants to a vast array of wildlife products derived from them, including food products, exotic leather goods, wooden musical instruments, timber, tourist curios and medicines.
Levels of exploitation of some animal and plant species are high and the trade in them, together with other factors, such as habitat loss, is capable of heavily depleting their populations and even bringing some species close to extinction. Many wildlife species in trade are not endangered, but the existence of an agreement to ensure the sustainability of the trade is important in order to safeguard these resources for the future.
Because the trade in wild animals and plants crosses borders between countries, the effort to regulate it requires international cooperation to safeguard certain species from over-exploitation. CITES was conceived in the spirit of such cooperation. Today, it accords varying degrees of protection to more than 40,000 species of animals and plants, whether they are traded as live specimens, fur coats or dried herbs.
In the Pacific there are seven Parties to CITES, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu, Fiji, Samoa, Tonga and Palau. New Zealand and Australia are also Parties. International trade in marine species is particularly important for Pacific Parties including sharks, sea cucumbers (traded as beche de mer), corals and clams.