Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)

Annually, international wildlife trade is estimated to be worth billions of dollars and to include millions of individual plant and animal specimens. The trade is diverse, ranging from live animals and plants to a vast array of wildlife products derived from them. An annual import value approaching US$160 billion was estimated in the early 1990s for all wildlife products, including wild-sourced timber and fish products (TRAFFIC, 2003). Levels of exploitation of some animal and plant species are high and the trade in them, together with other factors, such as habitat loss, is capable of heavily depleting their populations and even bringing some species close to extinction. Many wildlife species in trade are not endangered, but the existence of an agreement to ensure the sustainability of the trade is important in order to safeguard these resources for the future. Since the trade in wild animals and plants crosses borders between countries, the effort to regulate it requires international cooperation to safeguard certain species from over-exploitation.
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES - also less commonly known as the Washington Convention) was adopted in Washington DC, United States of America in March 1973 and entered into force in July 1975. CITES aims to regulate international trade in species which are endangered or which may become endangered if their exploitation is not controlled. Species covered under CITES are listed in three Appendices, according to the level of protection or regulation of trade that they need. Each Party to the Convention designates a Management Authority which issues import and export permits for CITES-listed species, based on advice from one or more Scientific Authorities. As of June 2013 there were 178 Contracting Parties to the Convention.
CITES is implemented within Europe through two EC Regulations (338/97 and 865/06 as amended). These Regulations implement CITES in a stricter manner than is required by the Convention. For instance they include certain non-CITES species, and also contain provisions to prohibit or restrict imports of species which are considered to be a threat to native EC fauna and flora.
JNCC contributes to the development of Government policy by providing sound scientific advice, as well as advising Government on licence applications (c.20,000 p.a.) for CITES-listed species regulated under the European legislation. We also participate in delegations to national, European and international meetings, as well as assisting Government with harmonisation of CITES procedures within the European Union and worldwide.
Transposition to UK Legislation
The UK ratified CITES in August 1976. The Endangered Species (Import & Export) Act 1976 was the first piece of legislation to give effect to CITES. It has been substantially amended and is now largely superseded by the European Regulations. The Control of Trade in Endangered Species (Enforcement) Regulations 1997 (COTES) make provision for enforcement of the European Regulations. The CITES Management Authorities for the UK are the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and its executive agency Animal and Plant Health Agency which is responsible for the issue of permits and certificates. JNCC, acting on behalf of the country Conservation Bodies, is the Scientific Authority for Animals, and the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew is the Scientific Authority for Plants. Enforcement is the responsibility of HM Customs and Revenue, the UK Border Agency and the police.
More information can be found on the UK CITES website.
June 2013