Nov 19 2010

NEWS AND LINKS: November 19, 2010

  • Report reveals gaps in federal regulation of imported animals
    A Government Accountability Office report released Monday said it found lapses in the way federal agencies regulate foreign animals imported to the U.S., which totaled at least 1 billion between 2005 and 2008. The influx of foreign animals can lead to the emergence of zoonotic diseases that can spread around the world, the report stated. (Very Interesting reading, I’ll have a few comments soon. Some may be surprised at the number of fish imports. TMM)
  • From Ornamental Fish International a very brief report from Keith Davenport or the Ornamental Aquatics Trade Association on the recent Conference of the Parties to the Convention of Biological Diversity held in Nagoya, Japan, October 18-29, 2010.

CBD CONFERENCE IN JAPAN (Links to draft decisions and background information are included, TMM)

Keith Davenport (OATA) and also on behalf of OFI, EPO, PIJAC and PIJAC Canada, attended the CBD meeting from 18-29 October in Nagoya, Japan. Some 18.000 participants from 193 countries participated.

Keith reports:

“A number of issues covered are directly relevant to the industry immediately or in the future. The invasive species issue first became prominent in the CBD in the mid nineties and that issue has blossomed not only because it is serious, but scientists, and to a lesser extent officials have made a career out of the subject. Among the topics of note were:

Invasive alien species, in particular aquarium, terrarium, live food and bait species (Draft decision).

The meeting discussed the issue and agreed to establish an ad hoc Technical Expert Working Group (AHTEG) on the subject, which Spain has agreed to fund. So it will meet and discuss invasive pathways and risks trade in aquarium, terrarium, live food and bait species. Industry is to be included but to reinforce the point I made an intervention.

It remains to be seen how the industry gets invited to participate.

PIJAC are still developing a “tool kit” which might be launched at an AHTEG. Diseases are considered invasive species.

Strategic Plan Draft decision

This was hotly disputed and only agreed on the last day. It establishes targets for various matters surrounding biodiversity to be met by 2020. They follow on from a 2010 set of targets, which they failed to meet. The targets cover a wide range of items including public awareness, invasive species, sustainable use, poverty alleviation etc.

We could ignore them. However, we could also start to compile examples of what we do as an industry which, even if sometimes unintentionally, help to support meeting the targets. If we, the global industry, started to compile examples, we could produce literature, a web site or even hold side events at the next appropriate CBD meeting. For reasons that I explain more fully below the CBD is in a “we love business” mode at the moment and there is less risk now than perhaps ever that this would back fire. I have in a sense already put a mark in the sand with the item I wrote for the CBD Business 2010 magazine. The benefits may be a generally more positive view being taken of the industry globally. While we can work to influence issues in our home countries and the EU a quite closely, this may help color opinion about our industry more positively throughout the countries that are in our supply chains.

The Economics of Environment and BiodiversityTEEB

TEEB has in some senses taken the world by storm. Massive side events, political endorsement from all directions, endorsements from the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, mention in almost every decision made were just some of the accolades. Major companies were queuing up to say they had supported TEEB or were starting to or had undertaken TEEB projects within their business.

TEEB looks at the value of “environmental services” such as rainfall, river flow, carbon fixation by forests and the like. An example that keeps being mentioned is the use of forests, especially of those on sloping ground, in China. The value of the wood extracted was a fraction of the costs paid in losses due to landslides, floods and the like. China now no longer logs its own forests so heavily but buys in wood from Madagascar. The environmental costs of the logging in China (and now in Madagascar) were externalized by users. TEEB emphasizes that the price of environmental services used or conserved should be internalized in business accounts and pricing.

Large companies are looking to benefit by being allowed to put on their books the value of the environmental services on land they own and haven’t used or have restored. There was repeatedly talk of a market in the mold of the carbon market for environmental services.

Our industry helps play a part in conserving rainforests and reefs. In the Barcelos region of Amazonas where 70% of the income derives from ornamental fish collection there is, I believe, 8 billion tons of carbon fixed. The price for carbon is approximately €13 per ton. So we might suggest our industry plays a role in help keeping €100 billion worth of carbon fixed. We will never get a cent from it, but it puts in context an unintentional consequence of our activities. Equally on the reef arguments along these lines might become apparent if we were delve a little.

Access and Benefit Sharing (ABS) from genetic resources – Draft decision

I kept a watch on this issue and did talk to UK and EU officials about this briefly. They remember past positions I had presented and so it did not take much of my time. Anyway, after 10 years of negotiations officials broke up at 1 am in the morning of the final day with no agreement. The President of the meeting (a Japanese Minister with help from CBD legal staff) cut out all text that could not be agreed on. The actual text was agreed at 3am on Saturday after a 3 hour boozy reception hosted by India to celebrate being awarded the next COP in 2012. I think the main protagonists were worn out and under political instruction from the 100+ Ministers present.

Amongst the text that was removed was some saying commodities (which the EU said included ornamentals) would not be included. This reference was removed and so the picture is less clear. Indeed, the failure to get agreement on many areas just leaves uncertainty.

At worst breeders may be required to obtain Prior Informed Consent (PIC) and establish Mutually Agreed Terms (MAT) before accessing genetic materials (breeding stock). However this unclear. It is also not clear if the agreement applies from next year on when it is likely to formally start its work of 1994 when the Convention (with its text on this issue) came into force.

I think that countries that were aggressively pursuing the harshest conditions on access and retroactivity may implement “harsher domestic measures”. There might be an obligation on the governments of importing countries to help resolve disputes. All the Africa and South America as well as Malaysia and India could prove difficult on this issue if they move their gaze further than pharmaceutical products. Will we have more cases of “biopiracy” as highlighted in Brazil for instance?

Industry engagementWeb link

There were more industry representatives than I have ever seen before. The CBD Chief Executive made an impassioned statement along the lines that “industry may not just be part of the solution to biodiversity loss it may be the solution”. I think this was echoed in part by others. Though mainly they are anticipating funds they do seem prepared to recognize positive impacts of industries. Several delegates especially one from Sweden said after a discussion the pet industry might be better served by being more vocal.

CBD Conclusion

There was a wide range of other discussions on relevant issues. As I said above we can ignore them. However, I have found following the invasive issue in from the CBD to the UK and the EU has helped in promoting our case and in some cases turning the tables on officials to achieve outcomes more to our benefit. I think maintaining a presence at the meeting so a face from the industry that becomes “part of the furniture” is useful.” ( As we often say here in Oregon when policy/regulatory issues arise, ” You’re either at the table or your on the menu!” – TMM)

Comments are always welcome, TMM

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