The meeting, which will have changes to trade rules for an unusual proportion of marine species on its agenda, will be held in Quatar in March 2010. Controversy is also expected over conflicting proposals concerning elephants.
WWF especially welcomes the proposal by the Principality of Monaco to list Atlantic bluefin tuna on Appendix I to the convention, which would ban international trade for commercial purposes and was submitted as Atlantic bluefin tuna stocks are declining dramatically because of uncontrolled overfishing.
"An Appendix I listing for Atlantic blue fin tuna has become imperative if we are to save the species," said Amanda Nickson, director of the WWF international species programme.
"If we act now we can secure the future of this species and guarantee that fishing can be resumed in the future, but at a sustainable level."
Proposals to list several shark species on Appendix II, which allows for international trade but imposes strict regulations and requires proof that trade is sustainable and legal, were also submitted. Threats such as bycatch and shark finning and illegal fishing and overfishing have caused serious declines in shark populations.
Also proposed for an Appendix II listing were red and pink coral, which are used to make jewellery. Red and pink corals are found throughout the world's tropical and temperate seas but the absence of effective international trade controls has led to overharvesting.
Elephant debate expected to be controversial
Elephants will be a topic of debate at the CITES meeting as potentially conflicting proposals were submitted for elephants. Kenya submitted a proposal – together with a group of west African countries - that would impose a 19 year ban on other countries seeking permission for one-off ivory sales, such as the one that took place under CITES supervision in 2008, and that would suspend the legal sale of ivory souvenirs in Namibia and Zimbabwe.
One the other hand, Zambia and Tanzania submitted proposals that would have elephant populations within their borders moved from Appendix I to Appendix II in order to ease the permitting rules for trophy hunting and allow for the sale of government-owned ivory stockpiles.
"WWF recognizes that some southern African elephant range states have successfully demonstrated that their populations should be placed on Appendix II," said Nickson.
"However, Tanzania and Zambia have yet to prove their case by demonstrating that their management of ivory stockpiles is adequate enough to prevent laundering of poached ivory.
"And while we acknowledge the concerns that have motivated Kenya's proposal, we must not forget to address what WWF sees as the main issue driving elephant poaching – that is, unregulated domestic markets in central and West Africa."
Two other of WWF's priority species that were not the subject of listing proposals but that will be discussed at the meeting are tigers and rhinos, which are both critically endangered and are being poached in order to feed the illegal market for their parts and derivatives. Tiger numbers could now be as low as 3,200 and rhino poaching has reached a 15 year high according to new research released this summer.
WWF will now engage with its partners TRAFFIC and IUCN, which will do a full analyses of the proposals in order to assess whether or not they meet the criteria required for a species to be listed in the CITES appendices. WWF will formulate its position on each proposal based on this analysis.
Photo: Lynette Strauss