The world's main mechanism for restricting trade in wildlife kicked off in Bangkok Sunday with sharks, manta rays, polar bears, elephants and rhinos high on the agenda.
About 2,000 delegates from 178 member nations of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora gathered in Bangkok for the 16th CITES conference, which meets every three years.
The delegates are to consider dozens of proposals on increased or decreased trade protection for endangered species by listing them on Appendix I, which prohibits all traffic in a species, or Appendix II, which restricts trade to ensure its sustainable.
The European Union, the US and several South American countries are hoping to list two manta ray species and five shark species, including the porbeagle shark - the largest marine predator in European waters - on Appendix II.
"This conference can be the turning point, finally, for better protection of marine species under CITES," said Elsa Nikel, head ofthe German delegation.
Three of the hammer head shark species designated for Appendix II are popular for use in shark fin soup, a Chinese delicacy.
The United States proposed that the polar bear, whose survival is being threatened by melting ice around the Arctic Circle, be placed on Appendix I.
China and Japan have traditionally voted against efforts to include marine animals under convention protections.
"I think it is going to be a tight vote," said John Scanlon, CITES secretary general.
The conference is scheduled to end March 14.//DPA