What is CITES and How Will it Protect the Ocean?

Written by on March 6, 2013 in Policy & Ocean Law
Oceanic whitetip shark.

Oceanic whitetip shark. Photo credit: alfonsator via photopin cc.

CITES, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, turned 40 this year at the start of the 16th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (CoP16). The meeting runs from March 3-14 in Bangkok, Thailand.

Over the last several weeks, there has been a lot of discussion in the news about protection for marine life at CITES CoP16. So, what is CITES and how will it help protect the ocean?

CITES is an international agreement designed to regulate the international trade of wild plants and animals. Currently, 177 nations have voluntarily joined CITES and are now bound by its regulations.

Plants and animals are listed in one of three Appendices, depending on the level of protection they require. Appendix I includes species threatened with extinction so trade of these species is almost forbidden. Appendix II includes species that could face extinction if trade wasn’t regulated. Appendix III includes species that are protected in at least one country which asks for help regulating trade from other CITES Parties.

At the current meeting, 70 proposals submitted by 55 countries will be discussed. Among these proposals, sharks and rays are high on the list of priorities, as is overfishing. Proposals have been submitted for the oceanic whitetip shark, the scalloped, great and smooth hammerhead sharks, the porbeagle shark and all species of manta rays. As of late January 2013, the Secretariat recommends that all of the proposals involving these species be adopted.

This protection comes at a vital time. Just last week, Dalhousie University release a study stating that up to 100 million sharks are killed annually.  We’ll keep you posted as the meeting progresses.

To learn more about sharks and CITES, check out some of these links:

Great hammerhead shark.

Great hammerhead shark. Photo credit: Brian Skerry, NOAA.

Copyright © 2012 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.

About the Author

About the Author: Emily Tripp is the Publisher and Editor of MarineScienceToday.com. She holds marine science and biology degrees from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a Master of Advanced Studies degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. When she's not writing about marine science, she's probably running around outside or playing with her dog. .

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