In General Terms – What is CITES?

“CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) is an international agreement between governments. Its aim is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.”

CITES 1The purpose of CITES is to ensure that international trade does not threaten the survival of any plant or animal. Approximately 35,000 species fall under the CITES umbrella of protection, of which approximately 5,600 are animals. Delegates from member nations discuss the proposed species and then vote whether they would like to place the species in one of three appendices. Each appendix reflects a different level of endangerment and suggests sanctions that should be considered for animals in that category.

How Does CITES Operate?

Appropriate appendix levels for proposed species are decided at the Conference of the Parties (CoP), held approximately every three years. At this meeting, flora and fauna can be added to appendices, promoted, demoted or deleted. The category in which the species is placed determines the international protection it is afforded. Member countries of the treaty are bound to abide by the laws created by the CITES consensus. A common misunderstanding is that CITES is a conservation meeting. While national and international NGOs may apply to participate, voting members are delegates sent by their countries to represent the national interests of that member country. If the animal or plant being proposed for sanctions represents a high revenue stream, or if the specimen is heavily imported into the member country, those countries may instruct their delegates to vote against protective sanctions. Unfortunately, some nations are refusing to accept the terms of this international mandate.

What Problem Are We Trying to Solve?

Marine animals do not recognize political boundaries. Many species migrate and cross international borders. We must have international agreements in place if we are going to successfully protect threatened and endangered flora and fauna as well as ensure healthy oceans for the future.

How are we solving this problem?

Advocacy means fighting to defend and protect that which you value. Sea Save Foundation believes in taking information to build knowledge and using knowledge to take action to protect the oceans. CITES, the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species is one of the international platforms where Sea Save Foundation courageously wages a battle to protect threatened and endangered species from extinction. The Conference of the Parties of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CoP CITES) is where the international community convenes to discuss, debate and decide which species warrant some level protection via international trade restrictions. Sea Save Foundation team prepares and attends these high-level international meetings. We study the proposals and create knowledge translation materials for delegates, who may not understand how a loss of a species could impact their country. We work with other nongovernmental organizations, scientists and delegates to explore the science and policy surrounding each species. ———

Describe the actual campaign

CITES is a critical international meeting member nations decide which animal and plant species should be protected. Scientific evidence is produced and a delegate vote decides if proposed species should be treated as threatened or endangered. While CITES has no authority over how animals are managed within a sovereign nation, the decision of the CITES majority affects how the species (dead or alive) are treated at border crossings. The member countries from around the world join voluntarily and their adherence to the decisions are voluntary. Much like the Paris Climate Accords, CITES decisions are carried out based on monitoring and public reporting. Peer pressure and a sense of community expectations lead to self-correction of outliers. Sea Save Foundation team members attend the CITES conferences where they report about the ten-day meeting, leverage their expertise to convince voting members why targeted species are important to protect, why protection will ultimately be beneficial for the country, and the SSF team also serves as a watchdog group reporting and documenting bribes, and other illicit efforts to make money at the expense of endangered species.

UPDATE: Due to the Easter Terrorist Bombings in Sri Lanka, CITES has been rescheduled and will be held from the 17th to the 28th of August in Geneva, Switzerland. Our hearts are broken for the many people affected by this horrific act. We anticipate a warm welcome and an effective Conference of the Parties in Geneva.

2019 CITES CoP18 – Geneva


Species we will work to get included in Appendix 2 :

CITES 3E-CoP18-Prop-42 (Mako Sharks)  Submitted by: Bangladesh, Benin, Bhutan, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Dominican Republic, Egypt, European Union, Gabon, Gambia, Jordan, Lebanon, Liberia, Maldives, Mali, Mexico, Nepal, Niger, Nigeria, Palau, Samoa, Senegal, Sri Lanka, Sudan and Togo CITES 3E-CoP18-Prop-43 (Guitarfish)    Submitted by: Bangladesh, Benin, Bhutan, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Egypt, European Union, Gabon, Gambia, Maldives, Mali, Mauritania, Monaco, Nepal, Niger, Nigeria, Palau, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Sri Lanka, Syrian Arab Republic, Togo and Ukraine. CITES 3E-CoP18-Prop-44 (Wedgefish)  Submitted by: Bangladesh, Benin, Bhutan, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Cabo Verde, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Egypt, Ethiopia, European Union, Fiji, Gabon, Gambia, India, Jordan, Kenya, Lebanon, Maldives, Mali, Mexico, Monaco, Nepal, Niger, Nigeria, Palau, Philippines, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Seychelles, Sri Lanka, Sudan, Syrian Arab Republic, Togo and Ukraine E-CoP18-Prop-45 (Sea Cucumbers) Holothuria (Microthele) fuscogilva, Holothuria (Microthele) nobilis, Holothuria (Microthele) whitmaei(Sea cucumbers)

Submitted by: European Union, Kenya, Senegal, Seychelles and United States of America

We hope this gives you additional insight about what the Sea Save team is working to accomplish at CITES.

2016 CITES CoP17 – South Africa

Sea Save Foundation was successful in 2013 CITES CoP16 in Bangkok, CITES 7Thailand.  Due to our coalition’s efforts, Porbeagle Sharks, Hammerhead Sharks, Oceanic Whitetips and Mantas were placed upon Appendix II.  We are now back at the 17th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES (CoP17) in Johannesburg, South Africa, in 2016.  We are currently leveraging strong science and bright minds to convince this international assembly to protect additional marine megafauna. Sea Save Foundation has created an official Position Paper, created for CITES. 2016 CITES CoP17 SSF Position Paper Proposals to place Thresher Sharks, Silky Sharks and Mobula Rays onto the protected Appendix II were presented. All species were successfully included in the Appendices E-CoP17-Prop-42 (Silky Shark) E-CoP17-Prop-43 (Thresher  Shark) E-CoP17-Prop-44 (Mobula Ray) Proposals for other marine life species at this CITES CoP17 included: E-CoP17-Prop-46 (Cardinal Fish) E-CoP17-Prop-48 (Chambered Nautilus)

2013 CITES CoP16 – Thailand

Sea Save Foundation participated in the 16th meeting for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in Bangkok, Thailand, in 2013 as part of a scientific, activist, and government effort to protect the world’s endangered species. Attendees negotiated groundbreaking policy changes to protect seven marine species under Appendix II, including five shark species (scalloped hammerheads, great hammerheads, smooth hammerheads, oceanic whitetips, and porbeagles) and all manta rays. E-CoP16-Prop-42 (Oceanic Whitetip) E-CoP16-Prop-43 (Hammerhead Shark) E-CoP16-Prop-44 (Porbeagle Shark) E-CoP16-Prop-46 (Manta Ray) The new rules, which took effect in September 2014, require participating nations to sustainably and legally harvest these species for international trade. This is the first time that commercially valuable and widely traded shark species have been included under these protections. Chinese and Japanese CITES representatives host dinner for West African Nations and attempt payoff. To “encourage” them to vote against shark protection.