The aim of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora [PDF] [80.19 kB] —better known as the CITES Convention— is to foster conservation of threatened species of wild animals and plants by controlling trade therein.

The Convention was signed in Washington on 3rd March 1973 by 21 countries and came into force in 1975. Currently, 180 countries —practically all countries in the world— are Parties to the Convention. Spain joined the CITES Convention on 16th May 1986..

The CITES Convention establishes a global network that controls international trade in endangered wild species and their products, by requiring the use of official permits for their trade to be authorized. Thus, protection encompasses live or dead specimens of animals and plants, and any parts, derivatives or products, i.e., skins, ivory, shells, musical instruments, seeds, extracts for use in the perfume industry, etc., obtained from specimens of CITES-listed species.

The aim of the Convention is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants is sustainable and does not threaten their survival. Basically, this involves prohibiting trade in species in danger of extinction, and regulating trade in species that are threatened, or at risk of becoming threatened.

The Convention is governed and managed by two bodies:

  • The Conference of the Parties (CoP) is the supreme decision-making body of the Convention. All CITES Member Countries (Party States or Parties) meet at an ordinary meeting of the Conference of the Parties at least every 2 or 3 years; the CoP may also call an extraordinary meeting at the request of at least one-third of the Parties.
  • The CITES Secretariat, which is administered by United Nations, is located in Geneva (Switzerland), and is funded by contributions from the Parties. The Secretariat acts as a liaison in the exchange of information between the different States, and other authorities and organizations.

The Convention establishes a requirement for export permits to be obtained in the country of origin, and import permits in the destination country, prior to any specimens being traded. It also provides for the issue of certificates for exemptions under the Convention. Further, the Convention allows stricter national laws to be implemented such as the regulations applied in the European Union.

The ultimate aim of the CITES Convention is to help ensure that international trade in wild plants and animals is legal, sustainable, and traceable. The system of permits and certificates that is in place ensures that all CITES goods are correctly documented, and full information is available regarding the source, destination, and reason for trade.

Further actions provided by the Convention for the purpose of control include:

  • Designation of one or more Management Authorities
  • Designation of one or more Scientific Authorities
  • Establishment of authorized entry points in each country that is Party to CITES.