CITES member countries act by banning commercial international trade in an agreed list of endangered species and by regulating and monitoring trade in others that might become endangered. It has established a world-wide system of controls on international trade in threatened wildlife and wildlife products by stipulating that government permits are required for such trade. Protection is provided for species in two main categories:
The most endangered species
Appendix I: Includes all species threatened with extinction which are or may be affected by trade.
Other species at serious risk
Appendix II: a) includes all species which although not necessarily currently threatened with extinction may become so unless trade is subject to strict regulation; and
b) other species which must be subject to regulation in order that trade in certain specimens of species referred to in subparagraph (a) above may be brought under effective control, i.e, species similar in appearance.
Appendix III: All species which any Party identifies as being subject to regulation within its jurisdiction for the purpose of preventing or restricting exploitation. The cooperation of other Parties, is therefore, needed.
Fish and fisheries
To date, the role of CITES in aquatic fisheries has been relatively minor but some important species are listed, including the paddlefish and sturgeons (the Acipenseriformes species) Caribbean queen conch Strombus gigas, whale shark Rhincodon typus, basking shark Cetorhinus maximus, and Seahorses Hippocampus spp. CITES has also had significant impact with some non-fish species important either as targeted species in marine harvesting activities or taken as bycatch in fisheries. For example, a number of whale species and stocks are listed on Appendix 1, as are all marine turtle species.
In recent years, there has, however, been discussion about an increasing role of CITES in terms of fish and fisheries and during the 10th Session of the CITES Conference of Parties in 1997 (Harare, Zimbabwe) a proposal was tabled for a Working Group for Marine Species. In motivating this proposal, supporters stated that some marine fish species subject to large-scale commercial harvesting and international trade currently qualify for inclusion in CITES Appendices. Other members are concerned about such an increasing role for CITES and have the view that other intergovernmental organizations such as regional fisheries bodies (RFBs) and FAO should have the responsibility for conservation of species exploited by fisheries in marine and large freshwater bodies.
FAO and CITES
FAO and CITES have been working closely in order to address some of the technical concerns of countries and in an attempt to reconcile the differences of opinion. CITES is currently reviewing its listing criteria for evaluating whether or not species qualify for listing on one of the Appendices. FAO has, after extensive investigation and debate, recommended changes to the existing criteria in relation to commercially-exploited aquatic species and CITES is considering the changes seriously. The details of the FAO recommendations can be found in the 'Report of the Second Technical Consultation on the Suitability of the CITES Criteria for Listing Commercially-exploited Aquatic Species',
FAO, with assistance from high-level experts from around the world, evaluated listing proposals to be considered at the 13th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES, held in Bangkok in October 2004. Proposals were submitted for listing white shark Carcharodon carcharias, humphead wrasse Cheilinus undulates and Mediterranean date mussel Lithophaga lithophaga in Appendix II.