Simple is good: moving toward pragmatic and effective monitoring to support CITES implementation for marine fishes and invertebrates on Appendix II

This document explores the challenges and opportunities of monitoring populations, fisheries and trade of marine fishes and invertebrates listed on CITES Appendix II, in support of ensuring sustainable trade through adaptive management. It addresses listings for a wide variety of species, including European eel, giant clams, humphead wrasse, queen conch, rays, seahorses, sharks and sturgeons. The term “marine species” is used to refer to this group of fully and partly marine taxa throughout the rest of this document. This document is intended to be an early step in a process that will create a set of tools and approaches for monitoring Appendix II listed marine species that Parties can deploy.

Monitoring in this context is the systematic collection of standardized information (data) for management purposes, and is a management cost that, if implemented wisely, offers useful signals for good management. The general principles outlined here can support monitoring to meet CITES obligations; monitoring populations, fisheries and/or trade is almost always necessary for effective implementation of Appendix II listings. While monitoring can seem daunting, it need not be a burden on resources or capacity. Parties commonly already have access to useful data and the collection of vital new information can be made tractable. The challenge is to plan the monitoring, data collection and analysis to be pragmatic and effective.

Carefully designed monitoring by Parties, and associated support for Parties, is vital for implementation of Appendix II listings for marine species. Without considered planning, there is a real risk of wasted effort where the wrong types of data are being collected; data are being collected using the wrong methods or at the wrong scale; collected data are not comparable or do not allow for robust analyses; and/or analyses are not mobilized for management. While these problems with data are a concern for all taxa, the risks may be particularly high for marine species because data from marine environment are difficult and expensive to gather. It is important to develop practical and affordable approaches that focus on the basics, to generate data that are reliable, comparable, and useful.

This information document highlights a few basic principles:

i) Good monitoring depends on clear goals and well-defined questions.

ii) Good indicators are needed to ensure monitoring does its job.

iii) Good methods for data collection can (and often should) be very simple, respecting a few basic principles.

iv) Good systems to store data are important, to allow information collation, extraction and sharing.

v) Good analysis and communication of findings/results are vital for data to influence decision-making.

vi) Sufficient resources are needed for Parties to establish and maintain monitoring that will guide export regulation.

Aylesworth, L., Foster, S.J., Friedman, K. & A.C.J. Vincent (2016). IUCN and FAO. Simple is good: moving toward pragmatic and effective monitoring to support CITES implementation for marine fishes and invertebrates on Appendix II (English French  Spanish). Information Document for the 17th Meeting of the CITES Conference of the Parties. CoP17 Inf. 65. 7 pp.