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Date: Monday, 15 Sep 2014 00:00
Iceland has killed 116 endangered fin whales already this year. © Nino Pierantonia / Tethys research instituteThe 28 member states of the European Union have been joined by the US, Australia, Brazil, Israel, New Zealand, Mexico and Monaco in issuing a diplomatic demarche against Iceland over its whale hunts. In a letter delivered to government officials in Reykjavik today, the countries expressed their opposition to Iceland's commercial whaling and to its international trade in whale meat, which they say are out of accord with the country's treaty obligations.

WWF-US Senior Policy Advisor for Wildlife Conservation Leigh Henry said:

"Already this year Iceland has killed 116 endangered fin whales. It has also engaged in an unprecedented increase in exports of fin whale meat to Japan, despite international regulations restricting such trade between countries.

WWF joins these governments in calling on Iceland to adhere to the International Whaling Commission's moratorium on commercial whaling, and to commit to ending its fin whale hunt and international trade."

The US has restricted diplomatic relations with Iceland for undermining the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. 

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To speak with a WWF expert at the IWC meeting in English or Spanish please contact:

Alona Rivord, arivord@wwfint.org, +41 79 959 1963
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Date: Monday, 15 Sep 2014 00:00
Governments are set to debate the legitimacy of Japan's whale hunts. © WWF-Canon / Jurgen Freund Portoroz, Slovenia – The 89 member countries of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) this week are expected to debate measures to tighten a treaty loophole that has allowed the killing of more than 10,000 whales under the banner of scientific research. The likely-fractious discussions come after a judgment by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in March that declared Japan's "scientific whaling" programme to be nothing more than a thinly-veiled commercial hunt.

A moratorium against commercial whaling came into force in 1986 as whale populations plummeted toward collapse after decades of industrial-scale whaling. Since then, Japan has exploited a provision in the whaling convention that allows the lethal take of whales "for purposes of scientific research."

"The ICJ examined Japan's whaling programme and determined that it was not for the purposes of scientific research and, therefore, illegal under international law. Now it is up to the International Whaling Commission to take action on this issue before Japan resumes whaling next year. Governments have the unique opportunity this week to change the status quo on scientific whaling once and for all," said Aimée Leslie, head of WWF's delegation at the IWC meeting.

During its four-day meeting in the coastal town of Portoroz, Slovenia, the commission will be asked to decide on a resolution tabled by New Zealand that incorporates more rigorous standards for scientific permits, as prescribed by the ICJ judgment. At the same time, Japan is preparing to launch a new "scientific whaling" programme.

"Modern research techniques make killing whales in the name of science obsolete," Leslie said. "The whaling commission is long overdue to adopt reforms that will protect whales from so-called scientific hunts, which are, in reality, a cover for the harvesting of whale meat. We urge the commission to adopt the criteria described in the ICJ judgment in order to put an end to commercial hunts that are disguised as scientific research."

IWC governments this week will also take up a number of other contentious issues including whether to establish a third whale sanctuary. A coalition of southern hemisphere countries has tried unsuccessfully for 16 years to add an additional layer of protection for whales in the South Atlantic. Sanctuaries already exist in the Indian Ocean and in Southern Ocean around Antarctica. Further, renewal of the Southern Ocean Sanctuary is up for discussion at this year's IWC meeting.

Survival of the smallest 

Additionally, the commission will focus on measures needed to prevent the extinction of two rare kinds of marine mammals. The vaquita porpoise is the smallest species in the cetacean family, which includes whales, dolphins and porpoises. Fewer than 100 vaquitas remain in the upper Gulf of California, Mexico, the only place in the world where they are found. The critically endangered species has experienced a steep decline due to entanglements in fishing gear, particularly over the past three years as a result of a new illegal fishery.

Cetaceans must come to the surface to breath and often drown when caught in nets intended for other species. The Maui's dolphin, found only off New Zealand's North Island, faces a similar threat. In order to save the last 55 Maui's, WWF is calling for a gillnet ban across the whole of their known habitat.

"Each year about 300,000 whales, dolphins and porpoises die unnecessarily in fishing nets. Unintended bycatch poses a severe risk to all marine mammals, but for the vaquita and the Maui's dolphin, governments need to act now to prevent their imminent extinction. We have already lost forever the baiji Yangtze river dolphin; it would be shameful to make the same mistake twice," Leslie said.

An ocean of threats

Other threats to whales set for discussion at the 65th IWC meeting include collisions with ships, underwater noise, off-shore oil and gas exploration, habitat destruction and pollution. WWF encourages IWC governments to allocate sufficient attention and resources to these serious issues, which have consequences for the survival of whale species, the health of the ocean and the benefits people derive from marine ecosystems.
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Date: Thursday, 11 Sep 2014 00:00
The critically endangered Irrawaddy dolphin, Orcaella brevirostris, photographed at Kratie Province in northeast Cambodia. The Mekong dolphin population is estimated at between 66 and 86 individuals inhabiting a 190km stretch of the Mekong River between Cambodia and Lao PDR. © Richard Vincent / WWF Greater MekongPhnom Penh, Cambodia – WWF today staged a public event to share the concerns of more than a quarter of a million people who are calling on Mega First Corporation to suspend construction of the controversial Don Sahong hydropower project on the Mekong River.

Since May this year, 12,404 concerned Cambodians have added their name to a WWF public petition opposing Don Sahong dam. The local action, supported by members of the River Coalition in Cambodia (RCC) under the facilitation of the NGO Forum on Cambodia (NGOF), was bolstered by a global online petition signed by 255,596 people representing more than 200 countries.

Laos' Don Sahong dam could herald the demise of important fisheries and critically endangered Mekong dolphins. Around 85 dolphins are now restricted to a 190km stretch of the Mekong River between southern Laos and north-east Cambodia, with the dam project in southern Laos located just one kilometre upstream of the dolphins' core habitat.

"More than a quarter of a million people around the world are sending a strong and clear message to Mega First. Stop Don Sahong dam or risk the dubious honour of precipitating the extinction of a species," said Mr Chhith Sam Ath, WWF's Country Director. "Don Sahong dam is a dangerous experiment and Mega First is gambling with the livelihoods of millions."

The Stop Don Sahong dam event, hosted by WWF and the RCC, included 25 community members from the Mekong River and Tonle Sap, 50 youths from Phnom Penh, NGO representatives, and Buddhist monks working on conservation awareness along the Mekong River. As part of the event, boats travelled along the Mekong River displaying banners calling on Mega First to respond to the huge public opposition to their project.

The dam builders intend to excavate millions of tonnes of rock using explosives, creating strong sound waves that could potentially kill dolphins which have highly sensitive hearing structures. Increased boat traffic, changes in water quality and habitat degradation represent other risks.

WWF analysis has also revealed that the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) conducted by Mega First uses flawed and incomplete research. The dam will block the only channel available for dry-season fish migration, putting at risk the world's most productive inland fisheries and the livelihoods of 60 million people living in the Lower Mekong Basin.

"Without fish and dolphins, our livelihoods will be destroyed," said Mr. An Hou, Chief of Community Fishery Network in Sambor district of Kratie province in Cambodia. "We are helpless and we do not know what to do if the dam goes ahead. We ask Mega First's Executive Chairman, Mr Goh, to stop the dam construction and rethink this project, and consider carefully the lives of millions of people who depend on the Mekong River."

In June this year, the Lao Government announced its decision to have the Don Sahong dam undergo the Mekong River Commission's (MRC) consultation process. The process requires Laos to hold inter-governmental consultations before proceeding with the dam, and conduct and share studies on the project's environmental and social impacts. The process will take at least six months to complete.

"Many community members along the Mekong River and Tonle Sap have expressed their concerns for the future of their families and their livelihoods," said Mr. Tek Vannara, NGOF's Executive Director and the representative of RCC. "Mega First has not proven that the risks associated with Don Sahong dam can be mitigated. They should listen to public concerns and suspend the project. Studies are needed to ensure that local livelihoods will not be destroyed by the dam."

WWF and the RCC are calling for an immediate halt to any further development of the Don Sahong dam until the developers have addressed significant gaps identified in the project documents, such as the feasibility studies and the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA). Additionally, an independent and sound assessment of the Don Sahong project against more sustainable alternatives must be conducted.
 
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Date: Thursday, 11 Sep 2014 00:00
The oceanic whitetip shark (Carcharhinus longimanus) is a pelagic shark and can be found in tropical and warm waters around the world. The oceanic whitetip shark is often accompanied by pilot fish (Naucrates ductor) who feed on the shark's leftovers. WWF lists pelagic sharks as a priority species. Kona Coast, Hawaii, Central Pacific Ocean © naturepl.com/Doug Perrine / WWFGland, Switzerland: Seven threatened species of shark and ray gain greater protection this Sunday with the introduction of regulations to prevent illegal and unsustainable fishing practices driven by international trade.

In a conservation milestone welcomed by WWF, five shark and two manta ray species will be under the protection of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) from 14 September. Their commercial trade will be regulated to ensure they are legally sourced and that trade doesn't threaten the species' survival.

"Sharks are apex predators and play an important role in maintaining a healthy ocean. Regulating trade is key to saving these important species and ensuring the ocean contributes to food security by staying productive," said Andy Cornish, Leader of Sharks: Restoring the Balance, a joint initiative of WWF and wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC.

The species in question include oceanic whitetip, porbeagle and three types of hammerhead shark, as well as two manta ray species. Shark populations are decreasing at a rapid rate across the globe with losses of more than 90 per cent of some species in certain locations.

Sharks are sought for fins, meat, leather, liver oil and cartilage. However, it is the demand for shark fins in Asia that is the greatest driver of overfishing and population declines. Oceanic whitetip and hammerhead fins are high value, the porbeagle is mainly caught for the international trade of its meat, and the gill plates of manta rays are highly valued as a health tonic in southern China.

The entry into force of these new listings comes more than a year after nations voted to have the species added to Appendix II of CITES. "It was a long road to the necessary two-thirds majority vote, with some of the species narrowly missing it at previous CITES meetings," said Dr Colman O Criodain, WWF International's wildlife trade specialist. "The 18-month delay before the entry into force of the listings was necessary to allow countries to prepare for implementing them properly."

"The listing was a victory for science over politics," said Cornish. "But now the real work starts. First we want to see the CITES regulations enforced, and then we want to see legal fisheries become truly sustainable, well-managed fisheries. The stocks of some of these species may already be too low to allow any fishing. In such cases, a recovery period will be required to pull these sharks and rays back from the brink."

A 2014 report led by the IUCN Shark Specialist Group found that almost a quarter of all sharks, rays are threatened with extinction.

WWF has led campaigns in several Asian countries to persuade companies and consumers to stop buying, selling or consuming shark fin. Cornish says that even with the CITES listings entering into force, there are no certified sustainable shark fin yet on the market and until such time, these products should be avoided.

"International cooperation to implement the new CITES measures will be essential. CITES is very important as part of the solution to accelerate improvements in management for some important species across most fishing nations, but reducing consumption of unsustainably harvested shark fin and meat is just as important as ever," said Cornish.

WWF and TRAFFIC created Sharks: Restoring the Balance, a joint global initiative to promote responsible shark fishing, improve the regulation of international trade in shark products and reduce consumer demand for unsustainably sourced shark and ray products.

For more information on the species in question and the new provisions that will apply see: http://www.cites.org/prog/shark
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Date: Tuesday, 02 Sep 2014 00:00
WWF and Norwegian Polar Institute staff at polar bear tracks. Svalbard, Norway, April 2014. © Tom Arnbom / WWF-CanonA team of French scientists working in partnership with conservation organization WWF has for the first time isolated polar bear DNA from a track left in the snow.

The scientists from DNA specialist firm SPYGEN looked at two samples from polar bear tracks collected earlier this year during the WWF-Canon and Norwegian Polar Institute expedition to Svalbard in the Norwegian Arctic.

"The results are really exciting," says Eva Bellemain, project leader for SPYGEN. "This is the first time we have been able to extract DNA from a track left by a polar bear – we found not only the bear's DNA, but also that of a seal and a seagull. We know from observations by the WWF team that the bear in question had just killed a seal, and that seagull had been seen at the kill site too, so this one footprint tells the whole story."

In a rapidly changing environment like the Arctic, it's a challenge to maintain current information on polar bear populations.

"This method would be an invaluable tool for conservation biology" says Arnaud Lyet of WWF. "At present, researchers use expensive, invasive techniques to track the population size and health of wildlife such as polar bears. Using footprint DNA, we could dramatically cut the investment required, so monitoring populations could be done more easily."

From here, the team hopes to further refine its analysis of the bear DNA, so it can tell more about the animal. It also intends to see if the method can be applied to other rare or difficult to access wildlife.

Polar Bear (Ursus maritimus) in snowstorm. Spitsbergen, Norway."This is a great example of scientific innovation from the latest Arctic expedition and we are proud to have helped support the sample collection," says Susan Stuart, Sustainability Director for Canon Europe, "This discovery shows how investing in science in the Arctic has the potential to produce real change."
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Date: Tuesday, 02 Sep 2014 00:00
WWF and Norwegian Polar Institute staff at polar bear tracks. Svalbard, Norway, April 2014. © Tom Arnbom / WWF-CanonA team of French scientists working in partnership with conservation organization WWF has for the first time isolated polar bear DNA from a track left in the snow.

The scientists from DNA specialist firm SPYGEN looked at two samples from polar bear tracks collected earlier this year during the WWF-Canon and Norwegian Polar Institute expedition to Svalbard in the Norwegian Arctic.

"The results are really exciting," says Eva Bellemain, project leader for SPYGEN. "This is the first time we have been able to extract DNA from a track left by a polar bear – we found not only the bear's DNA, but also that of a seal and a seagull. We know from observations by the WWF team that the bear in question had just killed a seal, and that seagull had been seen at the kill site too, so this one footprint tells the whole story."

In a rapidly changing environment like the Arctic, it's a challenge to maintain current information on polar bear populations.

"This method would be an invaluable tool for conservation biology" says Arnaud Lyet of WWF. "At present, researchers use expensive, invasive techniques to track the population size and health of wildlife such as polar bears. Using footprint DNA, we could dramatically cut the investment required, so monitoring populations could be done more easily."

From here, the team hopes to further refine its analysis of the bear DNA, so it can tell more about the animal. It also intends to see if the method can be applied to other rare or difficult to access wildlife.

"This is a great example of scientific innovation from the latest Arctic expedition and we are proud to have helped support the sample collection," says Susan Stuart, Sustainability Director for Canon Europe, "This discovery shows how investing in science in the Arctic has the potential to produce real change."
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Date: Wednesday, 27 Aug 2014 00:00
Cover for Environmental, Social and Governance Integration for Banks: A Guide to Starting Implementation © WWFSingapore – A new guide released today by WWF explains how banks can go beyond reputation and risk management to embrace transformative change. Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) Integration for Banks: A Guide to Starting Implementation shows how financial institutions acting as lenders, financial advisors and capital raising agents can adopt sustainable practices.

"This is the first guide that maps out 'how to' steps for financial institutions in the earlier stages of their ESG journey. It shows them how to manage their risk exposure to unsustainable business practices and lead the trend toward green business," said Jeanne Stampe, WWF Asia Finance and Commodities Specialist.

Banks can no longer ignore credit risks brought on by severe weather patterns impacting infrastructure or agricultural production, water stress affecting production across sectors, or regulations that affect the value of carbon assets or carbon-related infrastructure. Banks increasingly need to adapt to these emerging challenges through sustainable solutions.

The guide provides banks with a toolkit to develop an ESG strategy and an operational framework to integrate ESG issues into their practices. This is an expertise that financial institutions across Asia are seeking with urgency.

Ben Ridley, Asia Pacific Head of Sustainability Affairs at Credit Suisse commented: "Credit Suisse is proud to sponsor this guide. It provides Asian banks with the background, knowledge and tools to develop a strategy and action plan to embed consideration of key ESG issues into their core business."

"The call to address environmental concerns has grown increasingly louder over time. Businesses, whether upstream or downstream, need to work together to do what is right and banks can play a significant role in promoting sustainability. While change will not happen overnight, the WWF guide can serve as a roadmap to provide insights on how ESG issues can be integrated into business processes to achieve this purpose," said Samuel Tsien, Chairman of The Association of Banks in Singapore.

Singapore Exchange (SGX) will be hosting the first in a series of WWF-organized workshops to discuss the key ESG issues facing the banking sector. The workshop will also demonstrate how ESG risk management can be integrated into their own institutions using WWF's guide as a roadmap. The workshop will be run in partnership with The Association of Banks in Singapore and Singapore Business Federation on 9 September 2014.

Magnus Böcker, CEO of SGX and Chairperson of the company's Sustainability Committee, said: "SGX is delighted to support WWF in its efforts to raise awareness on Environmental, Social, and Governance issues. This guidebook parallels efforts SGX has made with its own Sustainability Reporting Guide for listed companies. Together with like-minded parties including WWF, SGX hopes more corporate leaders will embrace sustainability including diversity and governance.""SBF is delighted to support WWF's Environmental, Social, and Governance Integration Guide. The knowledge and expertise provided will have significant influence on the wider business community," said Ho Meng Kit of the Singapore Business Federation.

"SBF actively promotes the sustainability agenda through many programmes - such as its flagship Singapore Sustainability Awards - and welcomes WWF's initiative to promote ESG in the financial sector."
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Date: Monday, 25 Aug 2014 00:00
Herd of African savanna elephants grazing in the Masai Mara National Reserve, Kenya © WWF-Canon / Martin HARVEYArusha, Tanzania: A recent aerial report has revealed a worrying number of elephant carcasses in the world famous Mara-Serengeti ecosystem in east Africa.

A total of 192 elephant carcasses were counted, of which 117 were in Kenya and 75 in Tanzania. More shocking is that of all the carcasses found in Kenya, 84 per cent were outside of the Masai Mara National Reserve, and each had its tusks missing.

These statistics have alarmed the conservation fraternity in Kenya and Tanzania who are calling upon the two governments to strengthen their elephant management strategies as well as deploy technology in the fight against poaching. Furthermore, the conservationists are calling for better management of elephants outside protected areas through strengthened community conservancies.

The two governments are keen to work with conservationists to find lasting solutions to the challenges facing endangered species that include not only the elephant but also the rhino.

Conservation organizations such as WWF are working with governments in seeking solutions to the current poaching menace by acquiring anti-poaching equipment and technology, engaging communities and private sector in anti-poaching campaigns, carrying out elephant censuses, working with communities to reduce human wildlife conflict, securing elephant range outside protected areas, monitoring threats and developing national and sub-regional databases for use in managing elephant and rhino populations.

WWF has identified Mau-Mara-Serengeti landscape as a priority landscape and has focused its funding to the conservation of this landscape.

The Minister of Natural Resources and Tourism – Tanzania, released the wet season Serengeti-Mara aerial census report yesterday. During the release, the Minister called for close collaboration between the two countries in combating poaching and illegal wildlife trade in the region.

This Aerial Report indicated that a total of 7,535 elephants and 61,896 buffaloes were counted in the survey area. The general results for this census show an increasing trend of elephants and buffaloes in the Serengeti-Mara ecosystem where the number of elephants counted shows an increasing trend from 2,058 in 1986 to 7,535 individuals in 2014. There was also an increase in buffalo population in the area, from 54,979 (in 1986) to 61,896 individuals (in 2014).

This therefore shows that despite the threat of poaching the population of elephants is increasing and this can be attributed to the efforts of wildlife authorities in recent years.
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Date: Tuesday, 19 Aug 2014 00:00
Earth Overshoot Day © WWF ThailandGland, Switzerland: Humanity has exhausted its annual ecological budget in less than eight months, according to data from Global Footprint Network, an international sustainability think tank and WWF partner.

For the rest of 2014, we are "in the red" – effectively overdrawn on the balance sheet of nature's goods and services that we require to survive.

Earth Overshoot Day marks the date when humanity's footprint in a given year exceeds what Earth can regenerate. The date is moving progressively earlier from 1 October in 2000 to 19 August this year.

"Nature is the foundation of our well-being and our prosperity, but we are using up far too much of the Earth's finite resources," said Marco Lambertini, Director General of WWF International. "For a healthy and bright future for our children, we must preserve the natural capital that is left – and be better stewards of this one precious planet we call home,"

Based on ecological footprint data – measuring the quantity of Earth's natural resources, how much we use, and who uses what – Earth Overshoot Day is an opportunity to raise awareness and inspire action around our ecological overspending.

Next month, WWF will release the Living Planet Report 2014, the tenth edition of WWF's biennial flagship publication. The report measures the health of our planet and the impact of human activity.

"While trends clearly show that humanity's demands exceed our planet's capacity to sustainus, we can still take bold action now and build a prosperous future based on sustainable resource use," said Lambertini.

In 1961, the year WWF was established, humanity used only two-thirds of the Earth's available natural resources. In that same year, most countries had ecological reserves – meaning our footprint was lighter and more sustainable. Current rates have us operating way outside that window of sustainability.

Forests are shrinking, freshwater resources are dwindling, land is degrading, and biological diversity is being depleted. At the same time, the continued reliance on fossil fuels creates harmful carbon dioxide emissions that the planet simply cannot absorb.

By taking action now we can reverse the trend. We each play an important role in creating a world where we all live within our ecological limits.

Choosing sustainable goods like seafood labelled with the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) logo, and wood that is certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) helps ensure products come from well-managed sources.

Switching to clean, renewable, abundant energy sources like sun and wind will reduce dirty emissions that pollute our air and strain our oceans and forests.
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Date: Wednesday, 06 Aug 2014 00:00
Illegal logging contributes heavily to the destruction of biodiversity and the impoverishment of millions of people that depend on forests for food and income. © WWF-Canon / André BärtschiBrussels: More than a year after the entry into force of the EU's law governing timber trade, a survey by WWF confirms that many EU countries are still failing to halt the entry of illegal wood products into the EU markets.

WWF's EU Government barometer, conducted in the first half of 2014, shows that only 11 EU countries have so far adopted national legislation and procedures considered robust enough to control the legality of timber and timber products.

All other 17 countries have either not adapted their national legislation to the European law or have adopted legislation where low sanctions or dysfunctional prosecution systems are considered obstacles for an effective implementation of the law.

"The World Bank estimates that every two seconds, an area of forest the size of a football field is clear-cut by illegal loggers around the globe. It is disturbing to see that despite the EU's full awareness of the size and impact of illegal logging, and of its responsibility in fuelling such criminal activity, EU countries are still allowing tonnes of illegally sourced wood and wood products across their borders," said WWF Forest Policy Officer, Anke Schulmeister

The WWF barometer comes a week after the European Commission (EC) published the deeply worrying results of its scorecard on the national implementation of the timber regulation. WWF urges the European Commission to use the results of the surveys to put more pressure on national governments and take legal action against non- compliant countries.

"There is no excuse to further delay national actions to prove and guarantee the full legality of the products European consumers buy. Trading in illegal timber is a crime and it needs to be treated and sanctioned as such," said Schulmeister.

Illegal logging has devastating environmental, social and economic impacts on some of the most pristine forests in the world and the people who rely on them; this illegality also affects European businesses and consumers who comply with the rules.

It accounts for 30% of the global timber trade and contributes to more than 50% of tropical deforestation in Central Africa, the Amazon and South East Asia.

Cutting forests illegally results in lost revenues estimated at 7 billion euros per year, damages legitimate operators, locally and in Europe, causes deforestation, biodiversity loss, increases greenhouse gas emissions, and also threatens the livelihood of local communities.

In 2011 the EU accounted for 35% (€37.8 billion) of the global trade of primary timber products. As acknowledged by the European Commission, even if it is difficult to estimate what percentage of this trade was in illegally harvested timber, the EU is an important export market for countries where levels of illegality and poor governance in the forest sector are most serious.

"We need to guarantee that forests are managed sustainably, that local environment and communities are protected and that European markets are not disrupted and damaged by illegal low price products," said Schulmeister.
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Date: Monday, 04 Aug 2014 00:00
Fisherman tending their nets, Orinoco river basin, Colombia © WWF / Denise OliveiraColombia: One of the most important wetlands in the world will now be protected from mining threats after it was declared internationally valued following an announcement by the President of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos.

The Inirida Fluvial Star located in eastern Colombia is one of the most biologically diverse areas of the world and will now benefit from international protection after it was declared Colombia's sixth Ramsar site.

The protection of this area, home to the third most important river system on the planet, has taken a decade to come and will prevent extractive industries moving in to mine for potential gold and cobalt reserves.

"This is a significant achievement for both Colombia and the world and a clear statement to support conservation as an option to support economic and social development," said Director of WWF-Colombia, Mary Lou Higgins.

The area covers over 250,000 hectares and is a mosaic of jungle, savannahs and includes a network of rivers and wetlands. It is home to more than 900 plants species, 400 birds, 470 fish, 200 mammals, and 40 amphibians including threatened species such as river dolphins, jaguars and tapirs.

The new Ramsar site is located in the Orinoco river basin conserving an important freshwater area in the frontier region with Venezuela, and includes the confluence of four different river systems making it a vital fishing region for both Colombia and Venezuela.

It's the main source for Venezuela's fisheries and is also known for its aquarium fishes with 40 percent of the aquarium fishes that Colombia exports come from the Fluvial Star of Inirida. WWF-Colombia is working with fisheries management in the region, promoting sustainable fishing practices.

President Santos affirmed in his declaration speech that protecting the environment was a priority for the country and that his government could not fail in that purpose. The president recognized that even though his government conceived mining as one of the engines for development, there were biologically and culturally valuable places where mining should not take place.

"The Fluvial Star of Inirida establishes a benchmark to begin to rethink the development model based on conservation," said Ms Higgins.

The president recognized the efforts of WWF, which has been working with local authorities, the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development, local communities and the Ramsar Secretariat to realize this designation.

WWF-Colombia has supported research projects aimed at gaining further understanding of ecological and hydrological dynamics within the region and has backed local and regional grass-root organisations, providing technical and organisational support.

Ramsar is an international conservation designation, which protects places renowned for their biological diversity and their freshwater ecosystem richness.
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Date: Monday, 04 Aug 2014 00:00
Fisherman tending their nets, Orinoco river basin, Colombia © WWF / Denise OliveiraColombia: One of the most important wetlands in the world will now be protected from mining threats after it was declared internationally valued following an announcement by the President of Colombia, Juan Manuel Santos.

The Inirida Fluvial Star located in eastern Colombia is one of the most biologically diverse areas of the world and will now benefit from international protection after it was declared Colombia's sixth RAMSAR site.

The protection of this area, home to the third most important river system on the planet, has taken a decade to come and will prevent extractive industries moving in to mine for potential gold and cobalt reserves.

"This is a significant achievement for both Colombia and the world and a clear statement to support conservation as an option to support economic and social development," said Director of WWF-Colombia, Mary Lou Higgins.

The area covers over 250,000 hectares and is a mosaic of jungle, savannahs and includes a network of rivers and wetlands. It is home to more than 900 plants species, 400 birds, 470 fish, 200 mammals, and 40 amphibians including threatened species such as river dolphins, jaguars and tapirs.

The new RAMSAR site is located in the Orinoco river basin conserving an important freshwater area in the frontier region with Venezuela, and includes the confluence of four different river systems making it a vital fishing region for both Colombia and Venezuela.

It's the main source for Venezuela's fisheries and is also known for its aquarium fishes with 40 percent of the aquarium fishes that Colombia exports come from the Fluvial Star of Inirida. WWF-Colombia is working with fisheries management in the region, promoting sustainable fishing practices.

President Santos affirmed in his declaration speech that protecting the environment was a priority for the country and that his government could not fail in that purpose. The President recognized that even though his government conceived mining as one of the engines for development, there were biologically and culturally valuable places where mining should not take place.

"The Fluvial Star of Inirida establishes a benchmark to begin to rethink the development model based on conservation," said Ms Higgins.

The President recognized the efforts of WWF, who have been working with local authorities, the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development, local communities and the Ramsar Secretariat to realize this designation.

WWF-Colombia has supported research projects aimed at gaining further understanding of ecological and hydrological dynamics within the region and has backed local and regional grass-root organisations, providing technical and organisational support.

RAMSAR is an international conservation designation, which protects places renowned for their biological diversity and their freshwater ecosystem richness.
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Date: Thursday, 31 Jul 2014 00:00
The Asiatic Black Bear has a coat of smooth black fur and can be distinguished by a V of white fur on its chest. © WWF-VietnamVietnam: Conservation efforts in Vietnam are proving successful after a rare Asiatic black bear was recently recorded by WWF camera traps.

The images of the threatened bear taken in Quang Nam Province in central Vietnam are an important indicator of results of on the ground conservation efforts to improve the quality of forests considered one of the world's rich biodiversity spots.

The same bear was captured on a WWF camera trap in late 2012 when a number of camera traps were installed to support WWF's and the government's biodiversity monitoring.

WWF and the Vietnamese government have embarked on one of the most ambitious conservation assignments in the region's history through the Carbon and Biodiversity Programme (CarBi), which aims to protect and regenerate more than 200,000 hectares of unique forest.

Among the more than12,000 recorded pictures, several valuable species have been found, including the Sunda pangolin, large- antlered muntjac, serrow, Annamite striped rabbit, black bear, and Saola, which was rediscovered for the first time in 15 years in 2013.

"They are species affected by illegal hunting which our forest guard patrols and Protection Area management activities should be limiting. Their existence is also dependent on good quality forest. I believe that these photographs are very important monitoring indicators of our conservation impacts," said Phan Tuan, Head of Quang Nam Forest Protection Department, Quang Nam's CarBi project' Director.

Together with the camera traps which are used to track wild animals and their habitat, WWF and the government also introduced a progressive forest guard model. The initiative involve s employing and traing local people in law enforcement, patrolling and detecting and removing snares and dismantling illegal camps used by poachers and loggers. The guards also catch illegal hunters and loggers when possible.

The project has had considerable success since its launch, removing over 35,000 snares in the area.

In other efforts to help the forests WWF's programmes are also targeting alternative livelihood options through by educating local people in sustainable forest management.

"Habitat loss, illegal hunting and forest degradation are still severe threats to wildlife. More effective and uniform law enforcement efforts with regional and international co-operation are critically needed for wildlife conservation," says WWF-Vietnam's landscape manager Le Thuy Anh.

The WWF-Greater Mekong CarBi Programme is an unprecedented four-year, trans-border conservation economy assignment focused on the Central Annamite Mountains joining Laos and Vietnam.
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Date: Thursday, 31 Jul 2014 00:00
The Asiatic Black Bear has a coat of smooth black fur and can be distinguished by a V of white fur on its chest. © WWF-VietnamVietnam: Conservation efforts in Vietnam are proving successful after a rare Asiatic black bear was recently recorded by WWF camera traps.

The images of the threatened bear taken in Quang Nam Province in central Vietnam are an important indicator of results of on the ground conservation efforts to improve the quality of forests considered one of the world's rich biodiversity spots.

Another bear was captured on a WWF camera trap in late 2012 when a number of camera traps were installed to support WWF's and the government's biodiversity monitoring.

WWF and the Vietnamese government have embarked on one of the most ambitious conservation assignments in the region's history through the Carbon and Biodiversity Programme (CarBi), which aims to protect and regenerate more than 200,000 hectares of unique forest.

Among the more than12,000 recorded pictures, several valuable species have been found, including the Sunda pangolin, large- antlered muntjac, serrow, Annamite striped rabbit, black bear, and Saola, which was rediscovered for the first time in 15 years in 2013.

"They are species affected by illegal hunting which our forest guard patrols and Protection Area management activities should be limiting. Their existence is also dependent on good quality forest. I believe that these photographs are very important monitoring indicators of our conservation impacts," said Phan Tuan, Head of Quang Nam Forest Protection Department, Quang Nam's CarBi project' Director.

Together with the camera traps which are used to track wild animals and their habitat, WWF and the government also introduced a progressive forest guard model. The initiative involve s employing and traing local people in law enforcement, patrolling and detecting and removing snares and dismantling illegal camps used by poachers and loggers. The guards also catch illegal hunters and loggers when possible.

The project has had considerable success since its launch, removing over 35,000 snares in the area.

In other efforts to help the forests WWF's programmes are also targeting alternative livelihood options through by educating local people in sustainable forest management.

"Habitat loss, illegal hunting and forest degradation are still severe threats to wildlife. More effective and uniform law enforcement efforts with regional and international co-operation are critically needed for wildlife conservation," says WWF-Vietnam's landscape manager Le Thuy Anh.

The WWF-Greater Mekong CarBi Programme is an unprecedented four-year, trans-border conservation economy assignment focused on the Central Annamite Mountains joining Laos and Vietnam.
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Date: Tuesday, 29 Jul 2014 00:00
Tiger portrait © David Lawson/WWF-UKJuly 29th, Kuala Lumpur: Wild tigers are facing the risk of extinction in some countries due to a lack of accurate information on tiger populations, said WWF today.

At the 2010 St. Petersburg 'Tiger Summit' when tiger range countries committed to the goal Tx2 - doubling wild tigers by 2022 - the global wild tiger population was believed to be as few as 3200.

"This figure was just an estimate," said Michael Baltzer, Leader of WWF Tigers Alive Initiative. "In 2010 many countries had not undertaken systematic national tiger surveys. Now many have or are doing so, but not all, leaving major, worrying gaps in our knowledge. Until we know how many tigers we have and where they are, we can't know how best to protect them."

Poaching is the greatest threat to wild tigers today. Along with ivory and rhino horn, tiger parts are in high demand throughout Asia. Statistics from TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, show that a minimum of 1590 tigers were seized between January 2000 and April 2014. That represents an average of two per week, however actual poaching levels are likely to be substantially higher. It is feared that countries not carrying out national tiger surveys could lose their tigers to poachers without realizing. This may already be the case for some countries.

Currently, wild tiger numbers are known for India, Nepal and Russia who carry out regular national surveys. Numbers will soon be known for Bhutan, Bangladesh and China who are in the process of carrying out surveys. Wild tiger populations for Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam are unknown.

WWF is calling on these countries to carry out surveys urgently. Systematic national surveys take 6-12 months to plan and a minimum of a year to complete, so these surveys must start now if an updated global tiger figure is to be released by the halfway point to Tx2 in 2016.

"We are more than a third of the way to 2022. We need to move at a faster, more determined pace if we hope to achieve the Tx2 goal," added Baltzer.

During surveys individual tigers are identified using their stripes which are as unique as human fingerprints. The surveys show tiger populations, locations and trends. In the past, surveys have revealed tigers living outside protected areas or moving between protected areas through previously unknown and unprotected corridors. Having this information enables governments to effectively focus their anti-poaching efforts.

National tiger surveys are expensive, labour intensive and often take place in difficult terrain with challenging weather conditions. All these factors are barriers to governments completing the work. However the returns outweigh the investment and NGOs are willing to work with governments to share technical expertise and explore potential funding sources including international and private environment granting institutions.

Tigers are endangered. The wild tiger population has dropped 97% over the last hundred years. WWF was a driving force behind the 'Tiger Summit' and remains a major force behind the global Tx2 goal.

For further information on tiger surveys: panda.org/doubletigers
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Date: Monday, 28 Jul 2014 00:00
Pygmy cormorants, Skadar lake, Montenegro. © WWF-Canon / M. GuntherPodgorica, Montenegro: The government of Montenegro has revived a plan to erect four dams on the Moraca river abandoned after an international outcry and a lack of investors less than three years ago.

The government – which seeks to attract tourists under the slogan "wild beauty" – is bringing the dam plan back under its just announced "Energy Development Strategy to 2030", which according to WWF and its Montenegro partner Green Home is mainly new window dressing for the discredited scheme.

"This scheme has never been assessed in any rigorous way against any rigorous standard," said Green Home director Natasa Kovačević. "Montenegro has a constitution which declares it to be an "ecological State" but we are being served up, yet again, with an energy plan that marries technologically and environmentally outdated technologies with unrealistic forecasts.

"The power that Montenegro needs should be coming from modernising electricity infrastructure that loses and wastes more power than any other in Europe – and at a fraction of the cost of building destructive and unnecessary dams."

The Morača River, is one of the few remaining free-flowing rivers in Europe and provides two thirds of the flows into Lake Skadar, the biggest lake in the Balkans and one of the most important bird and fish habitats in the Mediterranean region. According to research conducted in 2008, the canyon of the Morača, and tributaries the Mrtvica and Mala Rijeka, identified 42% of birds nesting in Montenegro , the majority of which are under national or international protection.

An independent audit of the Strategic Environmental Impact Assessment of the Energy Development Strategy done by WWF, Green Home, MANS and SEEChange.net confirmed that the Strategy revolves around unsuitable locations and abounds with insufficient data and calculations and unrealistic forecasts.

"Montenegro is a candidate country to the EU and is required to implement several EU Directives. What we see is that the new energy strategy ignores the recommendations of the Water Framework Directive, the Habitats Directive and the Birds Directive, which require that governments avoid projects that could endanger the quality of the environment and of freshwater ecosystems, unless they are of vital national importance, which the Government of Montenegro failed to prove. We will keep watching and fighting if necessary" said Francesca Antonelli of WWF Mediterranean Programme.

WWF worked with the International Hydropower Association among a broad range of international organisations including the World Bank, to draw up the Hydropower Sustainability Assessment Protocols for dam projects.  The Protocol measures the sustainability performance of hydropower plans and projects against international good and best practices and ensures better analysis of the necessity for projects, the viability of alternatives, and more adequate reporting and consultation.

"This is the level at which this project needs to be assessed," said Dr. Jian-hua Meng, Water Security Lead for WWF International.

 For further information: Chantal MENARD, Communications Manager, WWF Mediterranean: cmenard@wwfmedpo.org
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Date: Tuesday, 22 Jul 2014 00:00
Pacific Bluefin Tuna auction in local Japanese fishing port © (c)WWF Japan.Lima, Peru - WWF will urge a suspension of the Pacific Bluefin tuna fishery, if fishing nations fail to set binding catch limits in line with scientific recommendations this year.

WWF's hardening stance follows an inconclusive annual meeting of the Inter American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) which deferred discussions on bluefin tuna quotas to October. Catch reductions of at least 50 per cent and a drastic reduction in the take of juveniles will also need to be implemented by the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) in Samoa in December in order to secure the future of the fishery.

"It is extremely disappointing that five days of negotiations by the 21 country members of the IATTC have produced so little in the way of tangible fishery outcomes," said Pablo Guerrero, Eastern Pacific Ocean Tuna Coordinator for WWF's Smart Fishing Initiative. "According to the scientists the breeding stock of Pacific Bluefin Tuna are at only 4 per cent of original levels and 90 percent of the current catch are juveniles yet to breed."

At the just concluded meeting, major fishing countries Japan, Korea, Mexico and the US did not agree on conservation measures and delayed decisions until October, when the parties will meet again to negotiate the quota for 2015. WWF is seeking a reduction from 5000 to 2750 metric tons.

For tuna generally where purse seine fishery capacity levels are a third more than levels set out in the IAATC's 2005 Plan for Management of Regional Capacity, the commission was also unable to agree on a reduction plan to meet the capacity limits. The alternative, said Guerrero, was to expand the size and duration of fishery closures to maintain healthy tuna stocks in the face of the overcapacity and this should be of great concern to the fisheries sector.

The IATTC also failed to adopt conservation measures to reduce fishing mortality of silky sharks in order to rebuild stocks. Sharks are species of slow growth and late maturity which are captured by various fleets in the Pacific. Japan and Korea objected to proposals to totally prohibit the removal of shark fins at sea and to require that sharks be landed with their fins naturally attached, citing economic reasons like quality deteriorations and capacity

A positive outcome of the meeting was the approval of mandatory IMO (International Maritime Organization) numbers for all purse seiners and long liners greater than 20m in length operating in the Convention area to monitor and control existing fishing capacity. WWF is very pleased that the IATTC voted for the evaluation of target and limit reference points for the North Pacific albacore, which will permit scientist to assess the impacts of strategies and management options for this fishery.

Note to editors
[1] The IATTC is responsible for the conservation and management of tuna and other marine resources in the eastern Pacific Ocean. The members of the IATTC are: Belize, Canada, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, European Union, France, Guatemala, Japan, Kiribati, Korea, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Chinese Taipei, United States, Vanuatu, Venezuela.

More information:
•Pablo Guerrero, Eastern Pacific Ocean Tuna Coordinator – WWF Smart Fishing Initiative pablo.guerrero@wwf.org.ec , Cel+593 9 99204171



 
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Date: Saturday, 12 Jul 2014 00:00
Pacific Bluefin Tuna auction in local Japanese fishing port © (c)WWF Japan.Lima, Peru: The long term sustainability of the Pacific Bluefin Tuna fishery can only be guaranteed by following the science and halving catch limits, WWF will tell the two Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs) covering the Pacific.

The 21 country and European Union members of the Inter American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) meeting next week in Lima, Peru will be faced with findings that measures of Pacific Bluefin tuna breeding stock have declined from their unfished levels by more than 96 percent. Also concerning is the fact that about 90% of the fished species are young fish that have not yet reproduced. The advice from experts of the International Scientific Committee (ISC) for tuna on how overfished Pacific Bluefin tuna must also be taken to the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) in Samoa in December.

Japan, Mexico, the United States and South Korea are the major countries fishing Pacific bluefin, while the main market is Japan.

"Management measures in the Eastern Pacific and Western and Central Pacific are totally insufficient to preserve the Pacific Bluefin tuna stock. Only a 50% reduction of catches and stringent measures to protect juveniles can ensure a long-term sustainability of this fishery," said Pablo Guerrero, Eastern Pacific Ocean Tuna Coordinator for WWF's Smart Fishing Initiative.

Fleet capacity one third more than recommendation

In June 2012, the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission set a quota for the tuna catch in the eastern Pacific for the first time ever. Last year the IATTC established that commercial catches in the Eastern Pacific Ocean should not exceed 5000 metric tons in 2014, but only the significant reduction of this quota might help Pacific bluefin tuna biomass to recover.

"Delegates to the Lima meeting need to agree to a catch limit of 2750 metric tons to be consistent with the ISC's recommendation of a 50% reduction of catches", said Guerrero.

For tuna fisheries generally, WWF is highlighting "a clear fishing overcapacity in the Eastern Pacific that undermines the economic performance of the fleet and if not properly controlled, can lead to overfishing of the main tuna stocks". WWF is calling on IATTC for an urgent reduction plan to meet the purse seine fishery capacity levels set out in its 2005 Plan for Management of Regional Capacity, given that current recorded capacity levels exceed these limits by more than a third.

"We are hoping that the Pacific Ocean tuna fishers will see it is in their best interests to address this issue of too many boats chasing too few fish and avoid more draconian management measures such as extended closed seasons and areas."

The IATTC should also adopt conservation measures to reduce fishing mortality of silky sharks in order to rebuild the stock of these sharks in the EPO, and also totally prohibit the removal of fins at sea and to require that sharks be landed with their fins naturally attached. IATTC members should adopt the scientific recommendations on best practices for handling mantarays aboard purse seiners.

Other measures which could make tuna fisheries more sustainable include: mandatory IMO (International Maritime Organization) numbers for all purse seiners and long liners greater than 20m in length operating in the Convention area to monitor and control existing fishing capacity; to provide additional data on movement of FADs (Fish Aggregated Devices) to the Commission, and to mark and identify these devices. And finally, that fishing fleets using FADs avoid the use of any entangling material deployed beneath them in order to reduce by catch of sea turtles and sharks.

Tuna is one of the most valuable fisheries in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, supporting a billion dollar industry that sustains the livelihoods of tens of thousands of people and contributes to economic growth and social development in the region. "It is vital that the member states of the IATTC expand their commitment to the responsible management necessary for sustainable levels of tuna stocks while ensuring a healthy long-term shark population at the same time," added Pablo Guerrero.


Note to editors
[1] The IATTC is responsible for the conservation and management of tuna and other marine resources in the eastern Pacific Ocean. The members of the IATTC are: Belize, Canada, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, European Union, France, Guatemala, Japan, Kiribati, Korea, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Chinese Taipei, United States, Vanuatu, Venezuela.


For more detailed information:
•Pablo Guerrero, Eastern Pacific Ocean Tuna Coordinator – WWF Smart Fishing Initiative pablo.guerrero@wwf.org.ec , Cel+593 9 99204171
•Julio Mario Fernandez, Communications Director, WWF-LAC
JulioMario.Fernandez@wwfus.org, Cel + 593 9 83356421 / Office + 593 2 2554783,

About WWF
WWF is one of the world's largest and most respected independent conservation organizations, with over 5 million supporters and a global network active in over 100 countries. WWF's mission is to stop the degradation of the earth's natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature, by conserving the world's biological diversity, ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable, and promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption. More information: panda.org/news
 
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Date: Saturday, 12 Jul 2014 00:00
Pacific Bluefin Tuna auction in local Japanese fishing port © (c)WWF Japan.Lima, Peru: The long term sustainability of the Pacific Bluefin Tuna fishery can only be guaranteed by following the science and halving catch limits, WWF will tell the two Regional Fisheries Management Organisations (RFMOs) covering the Pacific.

The 21 country and European Union members of the Inter American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) meeting next week in Lima, Peru will be faced with findings that measures of Pacific Bluefin tuna breeding stock have declined from their unfished levels by more than 96 percent. Also concerning is the fact that about 90% of the fished species are young fish that have not yet reproduced. The advice from experts of the International Scientific Committee (ISC) for tuna on how overfished Pacific Bluefin tuna must also be taken to the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) in Samoa in December.

Japan, Mexico, the United States and South Korea are the major countries fishing Pacific bluefin, while the main market is Japan.

"Management measures in the Eastern Pacific and Western and Central Pacific are totally insufficient to preserve the Pacific Bluefin tuna stock. Only a 50% reduction of catches and stringent measures to protect juveniles can ensure a long-term sustainability of this fishery," said Pablo Guerrero, Eastern Pacific Ocean Tuna Coordinator for WWF's Smart Fishing Initiative.

Fleet capacity one third more than recommendation

In June 2012, the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission set a quota for the tuna catch in the eastern Pacific for the first time ever. Last year the IATTC established that commercial catches in the Eastern Pacific Ocean should not exceed 5000 metric tons in 2014, but only the significant reduction of this quota might help Pacific bluefin tuna biomass to recover.

"Delegates to the Lima meeting need to agree to a catch limit of 2750 metric tons to be consistent with the ISC's recommendation of a 50% reduction of catches", said Guerrero.

For tuna fisheries generally, WWF is highlighting "a clear fishing overcapacity in the Eastern Pacific that undermines the economic performance of the fleet and if not properly controlled, can lead to overfishing of the main tuna stocks". WWF is calling on IATTC for an urgent reduction plan to meet the purse seine fishery capacity levels set out in its 2005 Plan for Management of Regional Capacity, given that current recorded capacity levels exceed these limits by more than a third.

"We are hoping that the Pacific Ocean tuna fishers will see it is in their best interests to address this issue of too many boats chasing too few fish and avoid more draconian management measures such as extended closed seasons and areas."

The IATTC should also adopt conservation measures to reduce fishing mortality of silky sharks in order to rebuild the stock of these sharks in the EPO, and also totally prohibit the removal of fins at sea and to require that sharks be landed with their fins naturally attached. IATTC members should adopt the scientific recommendations on best practices for handling mantarays aboard purse seiners.

Other measures which could make tuna fisheries more sustainable include: mandatory IMO (International Maritime Organization) numbers for all purse seiners and long liners greater than 20m in length operating in the Convention area to monitor and control existing fishing capacity; to provide additional data on movement of FADs (Fish Aggregated Devices) to the Commission, and to mark and identify these devices. And finally, that fishing fleets using FADs avoid the use of any entangling material deployed beneath them in order to reduce by catch of sea turtles and sharks.

Tuna is one of the most valuable fisheries in the Eastern Pacific Ocean, supporting a billion dollar industry that sustains the livelihoods of tens of thousands of people and contributes to economic growth and social development in the region. "It is vital that the member states of the IATTC expand their commitment to the responsible management necessary for sustainable levels of tuna stocks while ensuring a healthy long-term shark population at the same time," added Pablo Guerrero.


Note to editors
[1] The IATTC is responsible for the conservation and management of tuna and other marine resources in the eastern Pacific Ocean. The members of the IATTC are: Belize, Canada, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, European Union, France, Guatemala, Japan, Kiribati, Korea, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Chinese Taipei, United States, Vanuatu, Venezuela.


For more detailed information:
•Pablo Guerrero, Eastern Pacific Ocean Tuna Coordinator – WWF Smart Fishing Initiative pablo.guerrero@wwf.org.ec , Cel+593 9 99204171
•Julio Mario Fernandez, Communications Director, WWF-LAC
JulioMario.Fernandez@wwfus.org, Cel + 593 9 83356421 / Office + 593 2 2554783,

About WWF
WWF is one of the world's largest and most respected independent conservation organizations, with over 5 million supporters and a global network active in over 100 countries. WWF's mission is to stop the degradation of the earth's natural environment and to build a future in which humans live in harmony with nature, by conserving the world's biological diversity, ensuring that the use of renewable natural resources is sustainable, and promoting the reduction of pollution and wasteful consumption. More information: panda.org/news
 
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Date: Friday, 11 Jul 2014 00:00
Seized Shipment of Illegal African Elephant Tusks, ThailandCustoms officials in Suvarnabhumi discover a shipment of African elephant tusks from Mozambique. Suvarnabhumi is a major hub for both wildlife and drug trafficking, Thailand. © WWF Canon / James MorganThailand has until next March to take measures to shut down domestic trade in illegal elephant ivory or it will face trade sanctions, an international meeting on wildlife trade announced today.

Governments at a meeting of the Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES) requested that Thailand enact legislation to protect elephants by stemming the trade of illegal African ivory in the country. CITES also requested that Thailand implement a registration system for domestic ivory and ivory traders.

Any possible sanctions would impact Thailand's trade in species covered by the convention, including ornamental plants, such as orchids, and reptile leather.

WWF has been calling on Thailand to fulfil the pledge it made in 2013 to close its domestic ivory market and welcomes the requirement that is now being imposed on the country.

"We feel strongly that a suspension of trade in all CITES goods from Thailand would have been justified. The country has failed to act on this issue over many years, and it should be clear to them that this is their last chance," said Dr Colman O'Criodain, WWF's analyst on wildlife trade.

Thailand's ivory market is the largest unregulated market in the world. The trade in Thailand is fuelled by ivory from poached African elephant's tusks that are smuggled into the country.

Current Thai law allows for ivory from domesticated Thai elephants to be sold legally. As a result, large quantities of African ivory can be laundered through Thai shops. Only by closing the domestic trade in ivory can Thailand help eliminate the threat to African elephants.

A recent report on Thailand's ivory market by the wildlife trade monitoring network TRAFFIC, found the availability of ivory for sale in Bangkok has tripled since Thailand pledged to eradicate its domestic ivory market in 2013. The latest CITES figures show that more than 20,000 African elephants are killed by poachers each year.

"We are heartened to see that a number of governments, especially the US and EU member states, share our concerns," said O'Criodain. "WWF has repeatedly highlighted the fact that Thailand's market is fuelling the illegal assault on African elephants and the public voiced its discontent through an Avaaz petition that gained over a half million signatures."

The meeting also took steps to curtail illegal trade in rhino horn in Viet Nam and Mozambique by highlighting the two countries as priorities in the illegal rhino horn trade. Both countries could face sanctions if they do not take measures to stamp out illegal rhino horn trade within strict deadlines.

"Viet Nam and Mozambique were given concrete milestones and deadlines to be achieved over the next year. Firm anti-poaching and trade controls in Africa, as well as strong enforcement and demand reduction in Viet Nam are key elements to solve the rhino poaching crisis. Rhinos are running out of time." says Dr Carlos Drews, WWF's Director of Species Conservation.

Mozambique must prepare a national rhino action plan detailing its activities. Viet Nam must show how it is increasing law enforcement in domestic markets, combating demand and preventing rhino horn from entering its borders.

The next meeting of CITES governments takes place in August 2015. All countries that have been put on notice must meet the requirements being demanded of them prior to that meeting.
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