The international trade in wildlife is estimated to be worth around US$10 billion per year and includes hundreds of millions of plant and animal species.
These range from live specimens such as parrots and plants (e.g. orchids) to wildlife products derived from them for example handbags made from crocodile leather; wooden musical instruments made from Mahogany and tourist items such as turtle shell jewellery.
Unregulated international trade in wildlife and wildlife products can lead to over exploitation and possible extinction of species. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is an agreement developed between governments to ensure that international trade does not threaten a species’ survival.
To date, 175 countries (known as Parties) have joined CITES, with 8 in Oceania: Australia, Fiji, Palau, Papua New Guinea, New Zealand, Samoa, Solomon Islands and Vanuatu. The Convention has three lists of species (Appendices) that are considered to be at risk from international trade.
If a species is listed in the Appendices, governments must ensure that trade of these species into and out of their countries is regulated to prevent the species from becoming endangered or extinct.
Appendix I includes species that are threatened with extinction. Trade in these specimens is permitted only in exceptional circumstances. Trade in pre-CITES (Pre-Convention) specimens (i.e. specimens harvested prior to the date they were listed on the CITES Appendix) is allowed with the correct documentation.
- Examples of Appendix I species include all whales and dolphins. The import and export of whale products including Tabua (Sperm Whale tooth) must be accompanied by appropriate CITES documents.
Appendix II includes species that may become threatened with extinction if trade is not properly regulated. Trade in these species requires a CITES export permit as a minimum. In addition, Appendix II includes look-alike species in order to effectively regulate trade and prevent unnecessary extinctions.
- Examples of Appendix II species include hard corals, some parrots and tree ferns.
Appendix III lists species that are protected in at least one country, which has requested other CITES Parties to assist in controlling the trade of such species. Species are not necessarily threatened with extinction on a global scale. Fiji does not have any species listed in Appendix III of the Convention.
Endangered and Protected Species (EPS) Act
Although CITES is legally binding on the Parties, it does not take the place of national laws. Parties therefore implement the Convention through their own national legislation.
Fiji joined CITES in 1997 and implements the Convention through the Endangered and Protected Species Act (2002) (EPS Act) and the Endangered and Protected Species Regulations (2003) (EPS Regulations). The EPS Act aims to regulate and control the international trade, domestic trade, possession and transportation of species protected under CITES.
As well as species listed in the CITES Appendices, the EPS Act contains Fijian species that are not listed in the Appendices, but which are instead protected under Schedules 1 and 2. Like the CITES-listed species, trade in these species must be authorized through permits. A species list in Schedule 1 or 2 can only be traded into or out of Fiji if the Department of Environment has approved the trade and issued the relevant permit.
Schedule 1 of the EPS Act lists all species indigenous to the Fiji Islands that are not listed in Appendix I of CITES but which are believed to be threatened with extinction.
Schedule 2 lists species indigenous to the Fiji Islands that are not listed in Appendix I, II or III or Schedule 1 of the EPS Act
Applying for CITES Permits
All international trade in specimens of species listed in the CITES Appendices or the EPS Act must be accompanied by a CITES permit issued by the exporting (and often the importing) country to indicate that trade has been approved.
Contact the Department of Environment for advice on trading an endangered species or specimen. Obtain the relevant permit or letter of approval from iTaukei Affairs Board, Dept. Forestry, Dept. Fisheries or Quarantine Division prior to applying for a CITES permit.
All permits must be presented for clearance at the port of entry or exit. This requirement for CITES permits allows the legal trade in species to be monitored.
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