CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) is a trade convention drawn up to ensure that the animal and plant life on our planet is used sustainably and conserved.
CITES conference in Geneva: Swiss delegation takes stock
The 18th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) ended in Geneva on 28 August. The Swiss delegation's overall assessment is generally positive. Switzerland's proposal on international trade in marine ornamental fish was accepted and the trade's sustainability will now be reviewed.
The CITES CoP18 in Geneva has discussed 57 proposals to amend the conservation status of various plant and animal species. For example, several species of reptiles and amphibians affected by the pet trade are to be included in CITES Appendix l or ll.
Various species of shark are also to be included in CITES Appendix ll, together with giraffes. For rhinos and elephants, there are to be no changes to the ban on commercial trade.
Decisions were also taken on the handling of commercially exploited wood. Certain rosewood species, for example, are to be exempted from the permit requirement for trade in musical instruments.
In making its assessments, it was crucial for Switzerland whether a proposal met the scientific and commercial criteria for inclusion in the CITES Appendices. The plenary session will now take final decisions on the proposals. The conference ends on Wednesday.
At the 18th conference in Geneva of the parties to the CITES convention, a range of initiatives on greater or less stringent protection for flora and fauna as well as documents regulating implementation of the convention have been dealt with. The protected status of elephants will be retained, and trade regulations will not be relaxed.
Trade in giraffes will be regulated as the numbers have declined sharply in certain regions. Switzerland would have liked a differentiated solution, in line with the wishes of the countries of origin.
Switzerland called for the sustainability of trade in ornamental fish for aquariums to be investigated. Of more than 2,000 species concerned, only three are regulated by the CITES Convention. The Swiss delegation was also committed to in-depth research into Boswellia species and trade in frankincense. The Boswellia sacra trees from which frankincense is produced are becoming increasingly endangered.
All decisions still have to be ratified by the plenary session at the end of the conference. The conference will end on 28 August.
The conference of 183 member states will run until 28 August. Fifty-seven proposals to amend the protected species listed in the appendices will be discussed, including proposals on elephants, giraffes, crowned cranes, reptiles, rays and sharks, and tropical woods. More than 80 different topics on the implementation and further development of CITES have also been submitted.
The Swiss delegation, led by Matthias Lörtscher, Head of the Species Conservation and Third-Country Imports Division at the FSVO, supports proposals for greater protection if scientifically proven and in line with the Convention criteria. However, the delegation is opposed to general prohibitions and advocates pragmatic solutions wherever possible.
Switzerland itself has submitted a proposal on the trade in marine ornamental fishes. The large volume of trade in these fishes is currently subject only to limited monitoring by CITES. Switzerland is therefore calling for investigations to establish the sustainability of trade in marine ornamental fishes.
Switzerland is also committed to digitalising enforcement work such as the issuance of permits. This will make permitting procedures more transparent, more efficient and more secure against forgery, leaving more time for other work such as inspections, sustainability assessments or criminal proceedings. This is in Switzerland’s direct interests as, of all the Parties, it issues by far the largest numbers of CITES certificates.
It was realised long ago that excessive international trade was developing into a serious threat for many species. Against this background, the "Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora" – CITES for short (also known as the Washington Convention) – came into being in 1973. Switzerland was one of the first signatories of this Convention. The CITES Secretariat is in Geneva. Today, more than 180 countries have already undertaken to work together through CITES to protect flora and fauna
CITES – regulated trade in protected plant and animal species
Endangered plant and animal species should only be traded to the extent permitted by their natural populations. Sustainable, regulated trade is often a more efficient form of protection than an absolute ban on trade. Under the CITES Convention, the term trade refers to any instance in which a border is crossed.
The export and import of live animals and plants, parts of them or products made from them is either illegal or requires a permit, depending on the extent of the threat to the species in question.
The CITES Appendices now list more than 5,000 species of animal and 28,000 plant species listed in (see "More information"). The species protected under CITES are divided into three protection categories, depending on the extent of the threat.
Appendix I: Species listed in Appendix I are in acute danger. Trade in these species is severely restricted or illegal (e.g. ivory, tortoiseshell products). Exceptions include prior acquisitions*, products that demonstrably originate from captive-bred animals and specimens for species-conservation programmes and research purposes.
The species listed in Appendices II and III of CITES might be threatened if trade in them were not controlled.
* Prior acquisitions: Specimens that were traded before the Convention came into effect for the species concerned (e.g. antiques containing ivory).
CITES and Switzerland
As the enforcement authority for CITES, the FSVO plays an important role in protecting and conserving animal and plant species and their habitats. Switzerland generally requires an import or export licence for specimens covered by CITES. These licences are issued by the FSVO.