CITES has failed in its stated objective of protecting endangered species from overexploitation through trade, with trade being the primary extinction driver for marine species and the second most important driver for terrestrial and freshwater species. Whilst the lack of funding to enforce CITES provisions has long been known as a key reason for this, blaming the illegal trade is a convenient excuse to ignore the crucial design flaws in the current CITES model.
Nature Needs More decided to fully investigate the reasons why CITES is failing and becoming more ineffective as the number of species in need of protection continues to rise. We researched regulatory models in other industries and the history of regulatory failures to draw conclusions about the suitability of the basic building blocks of the current CITES framework – blacklisting, national sovereignty and it being a non-self-executing treaty. We demonstrate that with those basic building blocks remaining in place, CITES cannot be effective and cannot arrest the decline in populations.
We then outline a new regulatory framework for CITES based on whitelisting, regulating business directly and businesses paying the full cost of regulation. The model we present makes business responsible for internalising compliance, yet keeps companies at arm’s length from the regulator and the regulatory process. We offer a detailed account of how this model would work in practice, under real life conditions. We show that it is financially viable, providing US$9-13.5 BILLION annually to regulate, manage, monitor and enforce the trade. Finally we offer a path for CITES signatory countries to make it happen, acknowledging the difficulty involved in opening the articles for re-negotiation.