Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora
CITES is an international agreement, which aims to manage the trade of individual species while ensuring their continued survival. There are currently 175 countries party to the agreement and over 30 000 animal and plant species afforded protection as a result.
Countries sign up to the agreement and in doing so they commit to implementing the convention through the creation of legislation within their own national boundaries. Individual members, named ‘Parties’ or ‘States’, choose to adhere to the Convention and are legally bound to enforce the agreement.
How does CITES protect endangered species?
CITES aims to conserve species by controlling their trade across international boundaries. Species that are listed in the agreement may not necessarily be categorised as endangered, yet international trade may affect them. The animals and plants listed are placed on one of three Appendices according to how trade affects their survival. Member states meet every 2-3 years at a ‘Conference of the Parties (CoP)’ to upgrade, downgrade or add new species to the Appendices.
Text taken from the Shark Trust
Appendix I, II and III - what are they?
The appendix number relates to the level of restriction imposed on a species, which translates to what extent a species survival is susceptible to trade.
Animals and plants are listed on the Appendices either as a whole group (for example ‘primates’), family (for example members of the marine turtle family, Cheloniidae) or geographically distinct populations (for example the Common Minke Whale is listed on Appendix I except the population of West Greenland which is on Appendix II).
Appendix I houses the animals and plants “threatened with extinction which are or may be affected by trade” and CITES prohibits international trade in specimens
of these species except when the purpose of the import is not
commercial, for instance for scientific research. In these exceptional cases,
trade may take place provided it is authorized by the granting
of both an import permit and an export permit (or re-export certificate). To be able to export species listed on Appendix I a permit must be obtained by demonstrating certain criteria:
The species survivorship will not be negatively affected by their export;
The species has been obtained within the boundaries of the law;
Shipment of living species will minimise the risk of harm to the specimen;
An import certificate has been granted for the specimen; and
An import permit will only be issued if:
The import of the specimens will not negatively affect their survivorship;
The recipient is sufficiently equipped to house and care for living specimens; and
The specimen is not to be used primarily for commercial purposes.
Appendix II lists species that currently “are not necessarily threatened with extinction but that they may become so unless trade is closely controlled”. It also includes species that look similar to the species near threatened so as to remove any possibility of trade in a threatened species continuing. An export permit is required before international trade in Appendix II species can occur although an import permit is not required.
Appendix III houses species listed by a Party who are requesting the assistance of other countries control trade in said species to ‘prevent unsustainable or illegal exploitation’.
This requires exports of a species from an Appendix III listing country to have a permit demonstrating that the specimen was obtained legally and will be transported with due care. Imports of Appendix III species require the presentation of a certificate of origin and an export permit if the specimen is imported from a country that has listed the species.
Text taken from the Shark Trust