Bill and the porpoise.
The focus of today’s meeting here in a rather chilly Rome, are the proposals for species listings (putting animal species on the Convention’s two appendices to try to promote more action to protect them) and progressing all the various draft resolutions. We are also doing a lunch-time event with WWF on the threat posed by Climate Change today…. However there will undoubtedly be many conflicting urgent activities. We start our day in this part of historic Rome by walking past the Coliseum, then alongside the Forum (the central hill where Rome was founded); drawing level with the Circus Maximus, we carefully navigate across the Roman traffic and into the FAO building. We squeeze into our seats, plug in the computers, get the papers out, and quickly fall sound asleep….
No no no. We awake and listen carefully as the Chair sorts out the agenda for the day and then we go into the species listing proposals: The Secretariat, in the form of the redoubtable Marko Barberi, calls out the name of each species and then asks if there are any objection to them being included (firstly in Appendix 1). So it is that the Black Sea bottlenose dolphin moves to Appendix 1 with no opposition (silent cheering from WDCS). The Irrawaddy dolphin follow suit (more hearty but inaudible applause). Similarly, the Atlantic humpback dolphin moves onto appendix one (there is silence, but not in our hearts). Then we come to the cheetah… anyone object? ‘No’ says the chair, but there is a shout and it is Norway asking for the floor. He has a general point, and speaks about CITES and wishes that this proposal had been discussed with them. However, he generally supports the cheetah … but the cheetah at this point is stopped from moving to Appendix 1. The west African manatee, however, quietly joins this Appendix. We move on to Appendix two proposals. The Egyptian vulture steps up onto this list. A small falcon proves more controversial and is taken away for further consideration. Some warblers are listed and then we get to the harbour porpoise listing proposal for its west Africa population. Are there any objections. A small pause and then Norway can be seen to be waving his card again.
He says that it is unclear to him if the proposal meets the criteria and he suggests that there is no population estimate. The species is widespread and common globally he suggests. Mauretania who sponsors the proposal speaks up and notes it has been validated by the CMS scientific council (and we note it is also supported by the range states).
WDCS hands hover over the button that asks for the floor… but the chair asks for the advice of the Scientific Councillor for marine mammals, Bill Perrin.
Bill speaks. His intervention is short and to the point: this population is morphologically distinct, geographically separated and abundance is low. Those WDCS hands are hovering again, but maybe Bill has done the job… Norway comments that we are all working towards the conservation of species and he does not want a wide debate about application of he CMS criteria; the appendix 2 criteria are pretty weak… they need elaboration. But he goes on to accept the proposal and the porpoise is listed. [WDCS goes back to resting, quietly]
We move to the Mediterranean population of the fascinating Risso’s dolphin. Norway indicates that it has the same comment here. Monaco comments that we must be consistent (but we suspect that he does not mean this in the same way that Norway might). However, Norway again does not block consensus. The Mediterranean population of the bottlenose dolphin and the Clymene dolphin go the same way. The African wild dog and Saiga antelope also join Appendix 2. However, a few species are objected to.
So, failing to reach the appendices at this time are the Cheetah, the sharks and the Seika falcon but we may come back to them. One of the scientific councilors suddenly speaks up powerfully for the cheetah which he notes is critically endangered in much of its range and in the face of his robust defense, the Norwegian opposition subsides. Lunchtime sees the climate change briefing…. In a remote room in a distant corridor of the vast FAO building a small crowd of the friends of the climate gather. One delegate turns up for the free sandwiches and then does not attend the briefing (what surprised me is that he found the place… possibly he was lost). Many mentions are made of the narwhal including an impassioned plea for its survival. For more about this event see the report of the Earth Negotiations Bulletin. A little earlier Nicola Hodgins signs the text of the new memorandum of agreement for small cetaceans in west Africa on the behalf of WDCS.
Nicola and Heidrun Frisch
The other half of lunch is taken up with an urgent working group and in fact the rest of the day is about progressing the texts of many resolutions – these include the important marine species resolution (which includes reference to Arctic species); the noise resolution; the bycatch resolution and others.
In the evening many working groups break out in many remote and hard-to-find parts of building. Many delegates will probably still be wondering around the building tomorrow trying to find their way out…. hopefully they will because tomorrow is the final curtain. The big questions now will be will the budget for the convention be approved, will it be adequate to the task and what will all those resolutions contain in the end…. will they survive, will they be useful? For a fuller explanation about the species listings please go here.
Niki and Silvia