Nature Needs More believes that it is impossible to tackle the illegal trade in flora and fauna until the legal trade is modernised. 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 over 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 1970s paper-based system of permits 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 decisively tackle the illegal trade in endangered species until the legal trade system is modernised to 21st century standards.
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 LEGAL trade into the EU alone is worth
EUR 100 billion [US$112 billion] annually.”
The value of the trade in flora and fauna together with permit fraud and the lack of real-time reporting and inability to reconcile this 1970s paper-based, stand alone system 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, which means the illegal trade could be valued at 80% of the value of the legal trade; again demonstrating how ineffective the CITES permit and trade monitoring system is in reality.
Whilst any organisation that wants to reduce trade volumes or stop a trade in a particular species is challenged to provide evidence-upon-evidence-upon-evidence to back up their concerns and requests, CITES, IUCN SULi and others aren’t held to the same standards to provide proof that trade via the sustainable use model is working. And they can’t, because there are no useful or reliable trade analytics from 44 years of CITES operation.