PDF _ RL32751 - The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES): Background and Issues
5-Feb-2008; Pervaze A. Sheikh and M. Lynne Corn; 17 p.

Update: Previous Releases
February 1, 2005
May 19,2005

Abstract: The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) has been ratified by 167 nations, including the United States. It regulates the international trade in animals and plants that may be threatened by trade. CITES entered into force in 1975 and currently regulates the trade of approximately 28,000 species of plants and 5,000 species of animals. Many believe that CITES has been a success, citing that no species listed under CITES has gone extinct in the last 30 years. Others believe that CITES, although successful, has had implementation difficulties, such as the lack of enforcement and implementation regulations in some Party nations.

Protected species are organized under CITES into three appendices. Species in Appendix I are threatened with extinction and trade in these species is prohibited for commercial purposes. Appendix II contains species not necessarily threatened with extinction, but which require controlled trade to prevent population declines. For species protected in Appendix III, at least one country has requested other countries to assist in regulating trade originating in that country.

The Endangered Species Act (ESA) implements CITES in the United States and contains provisions for protecting rare foreign species. The ESA, however, protects species based on several criteria that may threaten their survival; CITES focuses solely on the threat of trade to a species's survival. Further, CITES allows for the trade in species if trade is not detrimental to the survival of the species; the ESA may allow imports of foreign endangered species if trade enhances the survival of the species in their native country.

In the United States, comparisons of wildlife protection under the ESA and CITES may be an emerging issue for Congress. Some argue that the ESA regulations on importing some foreign species may inhibit conservation efforts in foreign countries that rely on funds generated from wildlife trade. Others respond by noting that CITES is focused only on the trade in endangered species, rather than the overall protection and conservation of the species such as in the ESA. Issues regarding the effectiveness of enforcing CITES and the implementation of CITES may also emerge.

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Topics: Economics & Trade, International, Biodiversity

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