TESTIMONY OF DONALD J. BARRY, ASSISTANT SECRETARY FOR FISH AND WILDLIFE AND PARKS, DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR, BEFORE THE HOUSE RESOURCES COMMITTEE REGARDING THE ELEVENTH MEETING OF THE CONFERENCE OF THE PARTIES OF THE CONVENTION ON INTERNATIONAL TRADE IN ENDANGERED SPECIES

July 13, 1999

 

I appreciate this opportunity to provide the Committee with an update on the status of preparations for the Eleventh Meeting of the Conference of the Parties of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). This meeting will take place in Nairobi, Kenya from April 9-20, 2000. This issue is of particular interest to me personally. I have had the opportunity to attend eight previous meetings of the Conference of the Parties beginning with the first Conference of the Parties in Bern, Switzerland in 1976. Moreover, I was honored to be the head of the U.S. delegation at the CITES tenth Conference held in Harare, Zimbabwe in 1997 and plan to attend the Nairobi meeting next April.

It is important to note that this hearing comes at a time when preparations for the Nairobi meeting are still in the early stages of development. The Department of the Interior, through the Fish and Wildlife Service, has the lead responsibility for implementation of CITES, working in close coordination with the Departments of State, Agriculture, Commerce, and Justice, and the Agency for International Development. The U.S. has an extremely open public participation process for preparations for CITES meetings. This process began in January 1998 when the Service published a Federal Register notice inviting the public to recommend species proposals for consideration and continued in September 1998 when the Service published a second Federal Register notice inviting the public to recommend resolutions and agenda items for consideration.

On July 8, 1999 the Service published a summary of the information received as a result of the past public participation through the Federal Register process. That notice includes a preliminary analysis of possible recommendations, invites specific comments for a 60-day comment period, and announces a public meeting to be held on July 28 here in Washington. The notice was prepared in close consultation with the above agencies and the States, and reflects a consensus on the current information. Any final decision to submit U.S. proposals for consideration at the Nairobi meeting will be made only after careful consideration of comments received during the current public review and comment period and is not due until November 12, 1999. Since that is also the due date for other Parties to submit their proposals as well, we are too early in the process to know what other countries might submit in order to develop U.S. positions on other countries' proposals. As with previous meetings, that information will not be available until a few months prior to the meeting. A copy of the July 8 notice and a calendar of events and further publications leading up to the Nairobi meeting are included as an attachment to this testimony to provide the Committee members with all of the current information and time frames for preparation of U.S. positions. We will ensure that members are kept fully informed as we move closer to the meeting.

I would like to note that even at this early stage, we have worked more closely with our State counterparts on CITES planning and analyses than ever before. Under a special Memorandum of Understanding negotiated after the last CITES Conference between the Service and the States, State representatives participate as full members in our interagency CITES committee and have been actively involved in all scientific reviews and harvest and trade analysis outlined in the notice. All proposed recommendations in the July 8 notice, particularly for domestic species, have been closely coordinated with the States.

We have also initiated consultation with various range countries for species that are not native to the United States. The United States is the world's largest importer for the trade in many wild plant and animal species. In addition to our responsibility to ensure that the trade in which we participate is sustainable, we also have a commitment to share information we have on the status of non-native species in trade with the range countries. In this regard, we have corresponded directly with 49 countries on 14 different species or species groups, ranging from tarantulas in Sri Lanka to musk deer in Mongolia, and have also requested the CITES Secretariat to consult with all Parties concerning the medicinal trade in seahorses. To date, we have received comments from 14 countries which have been taken into account in the Federal Register notice.

Although we are still in the early stages of preparation for the Nairobi meeting, the July 8 preliminary analysis notice is presented within the context of our overall approach to the meeting. Our goal is to have a collaborative proactive role that is committed to the sustainable utilization of wildlife when appropriate and based on sound science. The acquisition of economic benefit from wildlife may be a critical factor in wildlife conservation for many countries, whether that benefit is derived through subsistence, local uses and markets, ecotourism, or international trade.

The July 8 notice provides an analysis of a total of 57 species (and higher-order taxa in some cases) and a preliminary assessment of the adequacy of data for each species. A significant number of these species are native to the United States or its marine waters and were recommended for listing by the public. Let me stress that we are not only considering proposals that would add or up-list a species on the CITES Appendices, but we are also considering proposals to delist or down-list some species. For example, we are considering the transfer of the gyrfalcon from Appendix I to II in recognition of the healthier status of the species and the reduced threat to wild populations of this species due to international trade. This is an excellent example of a CITES success. In addition to the species proposals, we also received information on a variety of concepts for possible resolutions and other agenda items. At this time, we are proposing to submit eight of these items to the CITES Secretariat. As I noted earlier, no decisions are final at this point for any of the recommendations in the July 8 notice.

We appreciate very much the continued interest in CITES that the Committee has consistently shown and look forward to seeing at least some of you at the next Conference of the Parties in Nairobi. I would be happy to answer any questions that the Committee Members may have at this time.

Disclaimer: All statements are not the opinions or position of those testifying, rather they are the official positions taken by the Administration.