Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora—known as CITES—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.

Importance of CITES for Marine Species

Many marine species that are traded internationally are highly migratory—meaning they swim long distances, often crossing national boundaries. Their conservation can only be achieved if nations work collaboratively. That’s where CITES comes in. The agreement provides a legal framework to regulate the international trade of species, ensuring their sustainability and promoting cooperation among CITES members, also known as CITES Parties.

NOAA's Role in CITES

The Endangered Species Act designates the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to carry out CITES provisions. We support the Fish and Wildlife Service by providing guidance and scientific expertise on marine issues.

We are also responsible for many marine species that are listed under CITES. We draw on the expertise of our regional offices and science centers to provide guidance in the implementation of CITES for species under our jurisdiction.

How CITES Works

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 are not currently threatened with extinction, but may become so without trade controls. Regulated trade is allowed if 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 control 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).

CITES members can make changes to the lists of species in Appendix I and II and to CITES resolutions and decisions at meetings of the Conference of the Parties, which convene every two to three years. Countries may list species for which they have domestic regulations in Appendix III at any time.

Meetings of the Conference of the Parties to CITES

The 17th meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES was held in Johannesburg, South Africa, from September 24 to October 4, 2016. Afterward, the United States, Fiji, India, and Palau submitted a proposal to include the entire family of chambered nautiluses in Appendix II of CITES. The United States also co-sponsored a proposal to include mobulid rays (devil rays) in Appendix II. The Parties adopted both proposals.

Marine Species in CITES

The lists below highlight some of the species listed in CITES Appendices I and II.

Appendix I (hundreds of species):

Appendix II (thousands of species):

More Information

For more information or with any questions, contact Laura Cimo, Office of International Affairs and Seafood Inspection.