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AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Fish and chips, coral jewelry and wooden musical instruments will take centre stage at a U.N. wildlife forum next week which seeks to curb the billion-dollar trade in endangered marine and tree species.
Commercially valuable species like the spiny dogfish and the porbeagle shark, the European eel, pink coral and rosewood and cedar trees -- all threatened by over-use -- feature high on the agenda of the June 3-15 meeting in The Hague.
The talks will also help shape the future of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), whose restrictions were once aimed at exotic species like leopards and parrots but are now focusing on more commercial species.
"In the past, we have hardly been allowed to get close to commercial fish and timber ... There was quite heavy opposition from producing countries," CITES Secretary General Willem Wijnstekers told Reuters.
"The debate over the inclusion of additional high-value fishery and timber species will be an important indicator of the direction CITES is likely to take over the coming years."
Many of the 37 proposals to be discussed at the 171-nation forum reflect growing concern about rapid depletion of marine and forest resources through overfishing and excessive logging.
Germany, on behalf of the European Union, wants to limit the trade in two sharks due to overuse: the spiny dogfish, featured in British fish and chips, and the porbeagle shark. It also seeks tighter protection for the European eel, a popular food.
"The sharks are particularly important because these are the first high value, high volume commercially exploited marine species to be proposed with a good chance of winning," said Carroll Muffett of Greenpeace.
The United States wants trade limits for the pink or red coral because overharvesting and sea bottom trawls and dredges threaten the tiny marine animal used for jewelry.
And deforestation has prompted proposals to limit trade in rosewood, used as tonewood for musical instruments, and cedar from Central and South America, a decay-resistant scented wood.
Environmentalists say this year's proposals showed that governments had begun to take CITES more seriously.
"We are really starting to understand that CITES does have implications for all of our lives whether we are living in a rich country or in a poor country," said Sue Mainka, senior program coordinator at the World Conservation Union.
Charismatic animals like elephants, leopards and whales will still be on the agenda of CITES, which bans trade in 530 animal and more than 300 plant species. It also limits trade in 4,460 animal species and 28,000 plant species.
Elephants are expected to be a controversial issue.
CITES is credited for stemming the slaughter of the African elephant with its ban on international ivory trade in 1989.
But scientists say the killing of elephants for their tusks, mainly in central Africa, has now reached levels not seen since the ban, as Asian-run organized crime syndicates push the illegal ivory trade to unprecedented levels.
Now elephants are back on the agenda. Botswana and Namibia want looser conditions on ivory sales from southern African countries, while Kenya and Mali seek a 20-year moratorium from those states to reduce poaching.