Thursday, 21 August 2008 4:19 AM

Butterfly farming: A response to David Hall

On 19 August 2008, David Hall posted on the PF-Net discussion board the following announcement:

'I am a butterfly collector and trader here in Australia. I am looking for butterfly farmers from any province [in SI] who can supply me with A1 quality bred specimens of Solomon Islands butterflies. David Hall, 6 Rule St, Cambridge Park NSW 2747, Australia.'

He further stated in regards to the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES) the following, which this article is responding to:

"Yes its true that CITES is requesting that no countries allow trade in SI Ornithoptera. However CITES is an international agreement between countries and not actually a law itself. Some more knowledgeable countries still allow the import of SI Ornithoptera, including some European countries and Japan. I have managed to get CITES import permits from the Australian government occasionally. I have been to the Solomons on 3 occasions now, and have bought 2 specimens of the rare hybrid Ornithoptera allottei. I paid several thousands of Solomon Island dollars for these. After all any SI butterfly farmer who grows the correct food plant for Ornithoptera will have no problems in breeding O victoriae and O urvillianus."

First, allow me to wish David and his company all the best. Second, as an informed Solomon Islander, I found comments made by Mr. Hall regarding CITES (hereafter as 'treaty') and law a serious misinformation of international law interpretation, particularly when he stated that: '.CITES is an international agreement between countries and not actually a law itself.'

Before doing so, let me first make mention of SI and the treaty. SI acceded to the treaty on 26/03/2007, and it entered into force for SI on 24/06/2007. In short, SI is a party to CITES. To this end it is binded by the treaty and its obligations. Conversely, I also recognise SI always have a challenge around how its international obligations are anchored within its domestic law.

So how does the above legal fact contribute to disproving Mr. Hall's assertion? A few explanations are provided here:

1. Since CITES is a treaty (international agreement) it is enforced by 'States' practice' which is 'Opino Juris'. In brief, this is the expressed opinion of States that their actions have a legal basis. For instance, how Partys' to the treaty respond to SI butterflies is an expressed practice of how States adhere to their obligations as stated within the treaty;

2. States' who uphold their obligations are not less knowledgeable of their responsibilities as Mr. Hall alluded to by implying "some more knowledgeable countries still allow the import of SI Ornithoptera." Adherence to international law through treaties obligations may be open to debate; however the correlation made by Mr. Hall is at best 'rubbish' in its ordinary reading. In short, there are reasons for doing so, and such actions must be interpreted within their ordinary readings within the treaty;

3. The CITES and especially its obligations are anchored within the domestic regulations of its Partys', and that is why individual countries have responded the way they did to the SI Ornithoptera butterfly. In short, they have domestic Acts that recognise their obligation in CITES; and

4. Finally, when one looks at the CITES three Appendixes, one will note that there are different reasons why countries will respond to a species export or importation. Which also include the type of license that Mr. Hall is been given (for 'Specimens'?).

A summary of the appendixes (quote from the treaty) is as follows:

'Appendix I lists species that are the most endangered among CITES-listed animals and plants. In these exceptional cases, trade may take place provided it is authorized by the granting of both an import permit and an export permit.'

'Appendix II lists species that are not necessarily now threatened with extinction but that may become so unless trade is closely controlled. It also includes so-called "look-alike species", i.e. species of which the specimens in trade look like those of species listed for conservation reasons.'

'Appendix III is a list of species included at the request of a Party that already regulates trade in the species and that needs the cooperation of other countries to prevent unsustainable or illegal exploitation.'

Within the treaty, it is clear that 'species may be added to or removed from Appendix I and II, or moved between them, only by the Conference of the Parties, either at its regular meetings or by postal procedures. But species may be added to or removed from Appendix III at any time and by any Party unilaterally (although the Conference of the Parties has recommended that changes be timed to coincide with amendments to Appendices I and II.'

On the basis of the above, the public should not be misinformed, and thus be thinking that how Parties to CITES respond to our butterflies export, emanates from a disregard to international law, or from an ill-understanding of it. It is the practice of States in this regard that makes it recognised as such. Thus, anyone who would like to engage in such a legitimate enterprise may like first to consult the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, or those authorities responsible for conservation. Iumi no jamp quik taem tumas.

I rest my case.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this letter/article are those of George Hoa'au and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Solomon Times Online.

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