Closer watch on endangered species

As part of a global effort to protect species from extinction, the Cayman Islands will be keeping a closer watch on local trading in endangered plants and animals.

Minister of Environment, the Honourable Charles Clifford said that Cayman is now moving to implement the Endangered Species Trade and Transportation Law which was passed in 2004.

‘By replacing the older, outdated law, this new legislation will enable the Islands to better fulfil its obligation under the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species or CITES’ he added.

Some 170 countries are party to CITES, an international convention which seeks to prevent the extinction of threatened plant and animal species by monitoring global trade in the species and their derivatives. CITES currently lists and regulates over 33,000 species, 28,000 of which are plants. While trade in some species is restricted, in others it is completely banned.

The Director of the Department of Environment, Mrs Gina Ebanks-Petrie said ‘Cayman has several species on the CITES list, among them black coral, our Cayman parrot and iguana species, sea turtles, queen conch, and a variety of snakes and lizards. Plants, including orchids, also appear on the list.’

As part of implementing the new law, experts from the UK CITES Management Authority, HM Revenue and Customs Department, and the Joint Conservation Committee recently trained local DoE, Customs and Ministry personnel. These will be the key agencies in applying the law.

Mrs Ebanks-Petrie said that Cayman’s law will permit monitoring of the trade and transport of globally endangered species as well as those threatened locally. She added, ‘CITES is primarily about international trade, as well as the global and cooperative effort to monitor and control trade in species which are threatened because of that trade.’

CITES works by subjecting international trade in selected species to certain controls, including licensing systems for import, export and re-export. The convention also calls for the establishment of a management authority to administer the licensing and a scientific authority to advise on the effects of trade on such species.

As a result, Mrs Ebanks-Petrie said, Cayman’s Endangered Species Trade and Transport Law requires pet store owners and persons involved in the captive breeding of endangered species to be licensed and to have requisite import and export permits. Additionally, people purchasing black coral jewellery or other items will be issued with an Export permit to allow them to more easily return to their home countries with their purchases.

Cayman’s legislation will exceed CITES requirements, by regulating the transport of species among the country’s three islands.

‘We have some very specific species of animals that are unique to each island. For example, Grand Cayman has very specific iguana and parrot species which do not occur in the Sister Islands and vice versa. It is in our interests to ensure that each species stays on the island(s) where it belongs,’ Mrs Ebanks-Petrie said.

John Hounslow of the CITES Management Authority in Britain and one of the workshop facilitators said that Cayman’s legislation is excellent. He added, however, that the country needs to now set up structures to underpin the law.

‘What I think is now needed is to set up the authorities, making sure that they have adequate resources to do the job. Standard operating procedures are also required so that new people can be taught how to do the job,’ he said

Mr Hounslow noted that agencies such as Customs, and the departments of Agriculture and the Environment join the Ministry of Environment as the key agencies to be targeted for the effective implementation of CITES laws and regulations.

He said species which are most under threat are those which are collectible such as reptiles, exotic birds and certain wild plant and animal products.

‘CITES is not a convention that seeks to ban things; instead it tries to control and monitor them. It actually recognises that sustainable trade is good because it gives people a chance to put a value on the wild life,’ he concluded.

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