Our team has recently returned from the latest Conference (large meeting) of Parties (member countries) to CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species which ended earlier this month in Johannesburg. The largest one ever, the meeting heralded increased protection from trade for several sharks species, pangolins (the only mammal with scales!), parrots and macaques. It also sought to address the continued trade in wild-caught bottlenose dolphins from the Black Sea. At the meeting, Ukraine proposed that a DNA database of all the Black Sea bottlenose dolphins in captivity should be established, which traders would have to use to prove an individual was born in captivity and not captured from the wild. Commercial trade is prohibited in wild-caught Black Sea bottlenose dolphins.
While there was significant support for the proposal from the countries attending the meeting, it was only a revised version that was adopted at the meeting and it does not now go as far as we had hoped. Primarily, instead of the establishment of an international CITES-wide database, it encourages the development of databases on a national or regional basis, which would then report to CITES, therefore lacking the international support that this initiative may need. Nevertheless, we remain hopeful that this is still a step in the right direction to ending the trade in wild-caught dolphins and committed to helping end the commercial trade in Black Sea and all dolphins targeted for a life in captivity.