Effective September 14, 2014, international trade of oceanic whitetip shark, three species of hammerhead sharks (scalloped, great, and smooth), porbeagle shark, and manta rays will require the appropriate CITES documents.

At the Sixteenth Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), several commercially harvested shark and ray species were listed in Appendix II of CITES. The newly listed shark species include: oceanic whitetip shark, three species of hammerhead sharks (scalloped, great, and smooth), porbeagle shark, and manta rays. Shark species already listed in Appendix II include the basking shark, whale shark, and great white shark.

CITES helps to conserve species and ensure that international trade of species is legal and sustainable. International trade, including import, export, and introduction from the sea, of species listed in Appendix II of CITES is subject to regulation. Introduction from the sea refers to transport into a country of specimens taken on the high seas. Any person or entity that plans to engage in international trade in specimens of Appendix-II species must apply for and obtain appropriate CITES documents.  An Appendix- II listing is NOT a prohibition or ban on trade. Species listed in Appendix II can be traded with the proper permits. Permits are issued based on two analyses:

(1) A non-detriment finding – data or expert scientific opinion on the biological status of the species indicating that international trade is not detrimental to species survival.

(2) A legal acquisition finding – evidence that specimens to be traded were not obtained in violation of any state, federal, or other jurisdictional law.

If both of these analyses are positive (i.e., the proposed activity is legal and sustainable), a permit would be issued to conduct international trade.

To learn more about CITES, please visit our page on “How CITES works." To determine the specific CITES documentation requirements for these shark and ray species, please read the questions and answers below.

Do I need a CITES permit?
If you plan to engage in international trade (e.g., fishing on the high seas and landing in the United States or in a foreign country, importing, exporting, or re-exporting) of scalloped, great, or smooth hammerhead sharks; oceanic whitetip sharks; porbeagle sharks; basking sharks; great white sharks; whale sharks; or manta rays; including the parts and products of these species, you need to apply for and obtain appropriate CITES documents.

We have developed the following decision trees to assist U.S. fishers and U.S. dealers in determining what, if any, U.S. CITES documents will be required for their proposed activity. Please note that while these tools focus on U.S. fishers and dealers, permitting requirements and port procedures also apply to researchers and others engaged in the non-commercial movement of CITES sharks and rays, including their parts and products.

U.S. Fishers

*U.S. waters includes U.S. state waters, the U.S. territorial sea, and the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ)

U.S. Dealers/Exporters

I have all of the appropriate permits. Now what do I do?

Import/Export License
An import/export license is generally required for all individuals or businesses that engage in business as an importer or exporter of wildlife. This permit, which is valid for one year, must be acquired from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Law Enforcement office within the Region where the applicant is located before any wildlife is imported or exported. Click here for the application form.

Designated Ports
Imports of specimens of CITES species must have proper documentation and be brought into ports designated by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS).  CITES species caught on the high seas must be landed in a USFWS designated port with proper documentation.  Click here for a list of designated ports. 

Exports of specimens of CITES species must have proper documentation and be shipped out of the United States at ports designated by the USFWS, except when specimens taken on the high seas are landed in a foreign country. Click here for a list of designated ports. 

In some instances, you may apply for a designated port exception permit to enter or exit through the port of your choice. For more information on this process, click here.

Please contact the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement for information about clearance procedures at ports of entry and exit. Click here for additional Information on importing and exporting your commercial wildlife shipment, including information on how to obtain an import/export license, designated ports for wildlife, declaration requirements, and user fees.