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Queen Conch. In 1992, in response to concerns regarding high demand for the species and declining populations, the United States proposed to list the queen conch in Appendix II of CITES.


Portrait of an Oceanic Whitetip shark, (Charcharhinus longimanus). The Bahamas. Photo Credit: Brian Skerry 



Sawfish. Photo Credit: Forest Samuels CC BY-NC-SA 2.0


The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) Exit is an international agreement signed by 183 Parties designed to ensure that international trade in animals and plants does not threaten their survival in the wild. The treaty was drafted in Washington, D.C. in 1973 and entered into force in 1975.

Why is CITES important for Marine Species?
Because many marine species that are traded internationally are highly-migratory – they swim long distances often crossing national boundaries – their conservation can only be achieved by working collaboratively with other nations. CITES provides a legal framework to regulate the international trade of species to ensure their sustainability, and promotes cooperation among CITES members - also known as CITES Parties.

NOAA's role in CITES
Under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) has been designated to carry out the provisions of CITES. Based on its expertise, NOAA Fisheries provides guidance and scientific support on marine issues.

NOAA Fisheries is responsible for many marine species that are listed under CITES. We draw on the considerable expertise of our regional offices and science centers to participate fully in the implementation of CITES for species under our jurisdiction.

How does CITES work?
Species covered by CITES are listed in different appendices according to their conservation status:

  • Appendix I includes species threatened with extinction and provides the greatest level of protection, including a prohibition on commercial trade.
  • Appendix II includes species that although currently not threatened with extinction, may become so without trade controls. Regulated trade is allowed provided that the exporting country issues a permit based on findings that the specimens were legally acquired, and the trade will not be detrimental to the survival of the species or its role in the ecosystem.
  • Appendix III includes species for which a country has asked other CITES Parties to help in controlling international trade. Trade in Appendix-III species is regulated using CITES export permits (issued by the country that listed the species in Appendix III) and certificates of origin (issued by all other countries).

Changes to the lists of species in Appendix I and II and to CITES Resolutions and Decisions are made at meetings of the Conference of the Parties, which are convened every two to three years.  Countries may list species for which they have domestic regulation in Appendix III at any time.

Next Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES
The 17th Meeting of the Conference of the Parties (CoP17) to CITES will be held in Johannesburg, South Africa from September 24 – October 5, 2016.  The United States, joined by Fiji, India, and Palau, submitted a proposal that will be considered at this meeting to include the entire family of chambered nautiluses in Appendix II of CITES.  The United States is also cosponsoring a proposal to include mobulid rays (devil rays) in Appendix II of CITES.  Learn more.

For more information on CITES-listed marine species, please contact Laura Cimo (

Historic Accomplishments

Sharks and Rays Gain Protection Under CITES: 2013 was marked by a historic conservation milestone for sharks and rays globally. At the sixteenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES (CoP16) in Bangkok, Thailand countries agreed to increase protection for five commercially-exploited species of sharks and manta rays. Read full story

As a result of this action, international trade of oceanic whitetip shark, three species of hammerhead sharks (scalloped, smooth, and great), porbeagle shark and manta rays requires appropriate CITES documents. Click here to learn more.

Regional Workshops Help Countries Implement CITES Shark and Ray Listings: Brazil, with support from the United States and several partner organizations, hosted in December 2013 a regional workshop to assist Latin American and Caribbean countries with implementing the new shark and ray trade measures. This workshop brought together CITES Management and Scientific authorities and fisheries experts from around the world to discuss tools and strategies to assist with compliance of the new shark trade requirements. Read full story...

Action Plan Released:  Senegal hosted a regional workshop in August 2014, with support of NOAA Fisheries and the Commission Sub-Régional des Pêches (CSRP), to facilitate the implementation of the shark and ray listings adopted at CoP16.  In addition to tools and training, the workshop led to adoption of an action plan (also available in French) identifying recommendations to address priority needs of the West African region.

Pilot Project to Assist Genetic Identification of Shark Products in Trade: A collaborative pilot project was initiated to help train Ecuadorian officials in standard genetic techniques used to process and identify shark products in trade.  Read full story.