CITES is a Conservation Organization...not a Trade Organization!

SRI wanted to share this excellent opinion from José Truda Palazzo from the NGO Divers for Sharks, which was intended to remind delegates that the goal of CITES is to protect species by regulating trade, not to protect trade by the manner in which species are regulated.  (It is posted here as written and in its entirety.)  

CITES, Species and Livelihoods – Time to Regain Ground for Conservation Which Benefits People & Biodiversity

José Truda Palazzo, Jr. [1]

The 17th Conference of the Parties to CITES has been, thanks on particular to Island Nations from the Indian Ocean and the Pacific which spearheaded marine species conservation proposals, an eye-opener for some fundamental aspects of this treaty and of endangered species conservation in general which should receive our full attention.

First, it is vital to recognize and reiterate that CITES is NOT a trade organization, but an international treaty designed primarily to protect wild fauna and flora from the deleterious effects of unregulated international trade. It is NOT and was never intended to be used to protect the trade itself in the first place. Therefore, it is a conservation treaty both in letter and spirit, and should be viewed and managed as such – as an instrument to prevent further endangerment of species by international trade. The fact that it promotes sustainability in trade of some wild species that can sustain harvest is a welcome result of this, but not an objective to supersede its main conservation goal.

Second, and as the Island Nations delegates have demonstrated so clearly both on session interventions and on side-events they hosted, protecting communities and livelihoods is not restricted to those that live off the extraction and trade in wild species, but rather MUST include – and fully protect the rights of – those that make a living by PROTECTING rare and endangered species and their habitats. For just too long CITES and other international fora have been biased towards those uses that involve hunting, killing, cutting down or otherwise harvesting wild species. It´s about time that the term sustainable use, somehow hijacked by the wildlife trafficking and killing lobby, is rescued from this misappropriation and extended to mean all truly sustainable uses, including non-extractive uses, which usually provide better-quality earnings for communities, both in having higher aggregated value and ensuring a longer-term use of natural resources.

It is about time that civil society and governments alike demand that non-extractive uses of Nature be fully recognized and protected by international treaties. It´s time to regain ground for conservation which truly generates jobs and income sustainably.

[1]Co-founder, Divers for Sharks; Vice-President, Augusto Carneiro Institute. Member of the IUCN Tourism and Protected Areas Specialist Group and World Commission on Protected Areas Task Force on Marine Mammals and Protected Areas. E-mail: