Mechanisms Of Trade

Nature Needs More believes that it is impossible to tackle the illegal trade in flora and fauna until the legal trade is regulated and managed more effectively. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is the multilateral treaty put in place to manage the legal trade in endangered flora and fauna; CITES entered into force on 1 July 1975.

CITES has been in place for 44 years and has had only 1 review of its effectiveness, which was 25 years ago in 1994. The compliance with CITES rules and appendix listings relies on a paper-based system of permits designed in the early 1970s that cannot be reconciled with customs records at present or cope with modern day levels of trade. For these and additional factors, Nature Needs More asserts that it is impossible to tackle the illegal trade in Flora and Fauna until the legal trade is regulated and managed more effectively.

A 2012 UK parliamentary report estimated the value of the the legal trade in flora and fauna under CITES to be worth US$320 billion annually. Similarly, a 2016 European Parliament Report states:

“The wildlife trade is one of the most lucrative trades in the world. The
trade into the EU alone is worth EUR 100 billion [US$112 billion] annually.”

Given the value of the trade in flora and fauna, permit fraud and the lack of real-time reporting and reconciliation enable massive abuses of the legal trade system by wildlife traffickers. As a result, the illegal trade is now estimated to be worth up to US$258 billion annually.

With annual core funding of only USD $6m, CITES lacks the resources to support parties to implement a modern, electronic, traceable permit system, even though such a system is available as an open-source product; moving to this system has been discussed for nearly a decade. We propose to introduce an import levy on the legal trade under CITES to set up and maintain a modern permit and trade system for all 183 parties.

In addition, CITES now lists over 35,000 species for trade restrictions on Appendix I and II, making identification and verification at customs an impossible task for purely practical reasons. With potentially 1 million species heading for extinction in the near future, the current listing mechanism is bound to break down completely. We propose to changes the articles of the Convention to a ‘reverse listing’ model first suggested by Australia in 1981. Under this system CITES would list only the species that have been approved for trade based on a thorough and ongoing assessment of the sustainability of such trade to ensure it will not negatively impact the wild cohort or the eco-system it lives in.

READ MORE: Electronic Permits
READ MORE: Reverse Listing