A Critical Convention On The Protection of Migratory Species (CMS COP13) Is Currently Taking Place In India

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The Thirteenth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS COP13) opened yesterday in Gandhinagar, India.

The Conference kicks off ‘The Super Year’ for nature, which will include a UN Summit in September and culminate at the UN Biodiversity Conference at the end of 2020, when a new global biodiversity strategy for the next decade will be adopted; the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework.

The concept of ‘ecological connectivity’ is the top CMS priority for the Post-2020 Framework, which calls for the protection and restoration of important geographical areas that together support migratory species during the different phases of their natural lifecycles, such as breeding and feeding. Deliberations at CMS COP13 in India will focus on how best to protect migratory species in a rapidly changing world.

The UN Global Assessment Report on Biodiversity released in May 2019, (IPBES Report1) found that we are in danger of losing One Million Species to extinction, including migratory species, if we do not step up our actions.

“As we face the unprecedented crisis of species loss, 2020 is an important year to step up action to conserve species, protect ecosystems, and make meaningful progress towards achieving the sustainable development goals,” Joyce Msuya, Deputy Executive Director at the UN Environment Program, said in a statement. We must seize every opportunity we have, and the CMS COP is a critical milestone in enabling biodiversity to flourish on this planet.”

A new report to be released at CMS COP13 indicates that despite some success stories, the populations of most migratory species covered by CMS are declining.

International cooperation is required to protect migratory species and their habitats, which is reflected in the COP13 theme: Migratory species connect the planet – together we welcome them home.

“COP13 comes at a critical time for wildlife conservation, with continued downward trends of habitat loss and species decline. The Convention on Migratory Species is the only multilateral treaty dedicated to addressing the needs of migratory species and their habitats on a global scale,” stated CMS Executive Secretary Amy Fraenkel. “The conference will set in motion actions needed to better protect migratory species that rely on multilateral cooperation for their survival.”

Migratory species bring multiple benefits to humans. For example, migratory species provide seed dispersal, pollination, pest control, and other ecosystem services and functions. They also provide major economic benefits and jobs, for instance, through tourism.

“CMS is very important to India. The Convention is at an exciting moment of development and the COP in India will mark the start of increased attention to migratory species and their habitats,” said The Minister of Environment of India H.E. Prakash Keshav Javadekar. “Migratory birds, mammals, and aquatic species are increasingly in danger on their migration routes and countries need to work together to protect them. For India, caring about these species is part of our ethos to protect all animals and natural life on earth.”

CMS COP13 will add new species for protection under CMS and also address emerging issues and threats:

● Ten new species are expected to be added to CMS, including the Asian Elephant, Jaguar, and the Great Indian Bustard – which is the mascot of COP13.

● These include proposed additions to Appendix I – which provides the strictest protections, for the Asian Elephant, Jaguar, Great Indian Bustard, Bengal Florican, Little Bustard, Antipodean Albatross, and the Oceanic White-tip Shark.

● The Urial, Smooth Hammerhead Shark and the Tope Shark have been proposed for Appendix II, which covers migratory species that have an unfavorable conservation status and that would benefit from enhanced international cooperation and conservation actions. Concerted actions with targeted conservation plans are proposed for 14 species.

CMS COP13 will also consider the following:

● The need for guidance and implementation tools to mitigate the impacts of linear infrastructure, such as roads and railways on migratory species.

● A new draft decision to integrate biodiversity and migratory species considerations into national energy and climate policy to promote wildlife-friendly renewable energy. The CMS Energy Task Force, a multi-stakeholder platform, was set up in 2015 to oversee this work.

● The new concept of animal culture and social complexity: the learning of animals through socially transmitted behavior, such as the nut-cracking Chimpanzee of Western Africa.

● Strengthening initiatives to combat the illegal killing, taking, and trade of migratory birds. In the Mediterranean region alone, 25 million birds are illegally killed each year, making it the second most important threat to the conservation of migratory birds globally, after habitat loss.

● Targeted action on aquatic wild meat, including shark and ray species, which has been a fast-emerging threat on a scale similar to that facing terrestrial animals.

● Further implementation of bycatch mitigation measures for marine mammals in national fishing operations.

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