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This week’s CITES Issue article will be the last post in our series of issues for the upcoming 17th Conference of the Parties (CoP17). CoP17 officially begins on Saturday, 24 September. Even though this week’s article is not about a particular species, the issue – general hunting trophy regulation – is one with which all hunters around the world should be concerned.
To export a hunting trophy of any species that is listed on CITES Appendix I or II, each hunter must first acquire a CITES export permit from the country in which the animal was harvested. And, to grant an export permit, the country must first make a finding that the “export will not be detrimental to the survival of the species.” This finding is often referred to as a non-detriment finding or NDF. As there are many hunted species listed on CITES Appendix I or II, standards used to regulate how NDFs are made impact numerous hunters throughout the world.
The European Union has submitted a proposal that, if adopted, would increase the burden required for a country to make a NDF for trade in hunting trophies of any species listed on Appendix I or II. For example, among other requirements, the EU’s proposal would require that for any Appendix I species, an exporting country must find that hunting produces “tangible conservation benefits for the species concerned.” Another example, the EU’s proposal would require that hunting “provide benefits to local communities” for Appendix II species.
SCI and SCI Foundation’s Position
SCI and SCI Foundation agree that hunting does do the things required by the EU’s proposal – it provides conservation benefits for the hunted species and benefits local communities. However, the language used in the EU’s proposal is vague, undefined, and open to interpretation. How much “tangible conservation benefits” is required? How much benefit must hunting bring to local communities? How is the country of export required to prove such benefits?
These new requirements could easily be used by importing countries to block the importation of hunting trophies because hunters cannot meet ambiguous and arbitrary standards set by the importing country – something that the EU is very likely trying to do. SCI and SCI Foundation oppose the EU’s proposal because it effectively raises the bar for NDFs related to hunting trophies to something more than non-detriment; it raises the standard to enhancement.
As the proposal raises the bar above the current non-detriment standard, the EU’s proposal goes beyond the standard found in the Convention text and agreed to by all members of CITES. It is questionable whether the proposal can even be considered by the Parties. If it is considered, the introduction of this enhancement-esque concept will set a precedent for other types of trade in Appendix I and II listed species.
Why Should Hunters Care
Sport hunting is beneficial to conservation because it generates critical revenues for wildlife conservation. If the EU’s proposal is adopted, hunting programs throughout the world, not just in Africa, will be detrimentally impacted with less funding because hunters who cannot export/import their harvested wildlife will likely not hunt or pay far less to do so. Of course, less funding equals less conservation.
The IUCN recognizes the value of sustainable use hunting programs and recently published a paper that encouraged the European Union and other CITES Parties to consider the negative impacts of over-burdensome standards related to trade in hunting trophies. SCI and SCI Foundation hope that all CITES Parties consider the negative consequences of such actions and reject the EU’s proposal to further restrict trade in hunting trophies.