News Release

March 8, 2012

Fish and Wildlife Service Proposes Updates to CITES Regulations Governing Trade in Endangered and Threatened Wildlife

Media Contacts:
Danielle Kessler, (703) 358-2644
Claire Cassel, (703) 358-2357

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service today announced proposed changes to regulations implementing the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) designed to bring existing U.S. regulations in line with international agreements, clarify language and otherwise make it easier for the public to understand how to comply with permit requirements for trade in protected species.

While most of the proposed revisions are administrative in nature, updates that reflect a change in policy include an expanded definition for "sport-hunted trophy," changes to requirements for commercial operations breeding certain CITES-listed species, and a change in how some CITES specimens may be used after import.

CITES entered into force in 1975 and became the only global treaty to ensure that international trade in plants and animals does not threaten the species' survival in the wild. It provides a framework for cooperation and collaboration among nations to prevent the decline of wild populations of animals and plants as a result of trade.

Currently 175 countries, including the United States, are members (called Parties) of CITES. In the United States, CITES is implemented through the Endangered Species Act (Act). The Service is the designated authority for administering the treaty, and its responsibilities are carried out by the Services International Affairs Program.

Every two to three years, a meeting of the Conference of the Parties (CoP) is held to review, discuss, and negotiate changes in the management and control of trade in the more than 34,000 species listed under CITES. During this meeting, Parties review and adopt changes to the listings of protected species, and also discuss and adopt or amend resolutions that assist the Parties in their interpretation and implementation of the treaty.

The proposed revisions to the U.S. regulations will incorporate changes to resolutions agreed to by countries at CoP14 and CoP15, as well as several changes to provide clarity or correct omissions in the current regulations. Some proposed changes also reflect the Service's experience with implementing the 2007 amendments to the CITES regulations and are intended to reduce the regulatory impact on the public without reducing the level of protection afforded CITES-listed species.

At CoP15, the Parties agreed that products manufactured from a trophy animal should be included in the definition of a sport-hunted trophy. If the CITES definition is incorporated into our regulations, hunters will be allowed to import products made from their sport-hunted trophy as part of their trophy shipment. The Service understands that there are concerns about the possible import of manufactured products as part of a trophy and, if adopted, we will carefully monitor these imports to evaluate the impact of this change.

Under the current regulations, commercial breeders of species listed in Appendix I must be registered with the CITES Secretariat to export specimens under any circumstances. Appendix I includes species threatened with extinction, and provides the greatest level of protection, including restrictions on commercial trade. The proposed regulations will allow for the possibility of non-commercial export of specimens, in some circumstances, from operations considered to be commercial but that are not registered with the CITES Secretariat. If adopted, the Service will continue to examine this trade carefully to ensure that other countries are properly classifying imports for non-commercial purposes.

The CITES list of protected species is constantly evolving, with changes adopted every two to three years at each CoP. The Service is proposing to modify the regulations to accommodate situations where the listing status of a species changes after it has been imported into the United States.

Certain CITES-listed specimens may only be imported into the United States when the intended use after import is not commercial. Under the current regulations, if CITES protections for a species are increased, all specimens of that species are treated the same, regardless of the date of import. The proposed revision would allow specimens imported prior to the uplisting date to continue to be used for any lawful purpose, provided that the importer could provide documentation verifying the date of import.

The Service is now seeking public comment on this proposed rule to update the CITES-implementing regulations. The public comment period for this notice will remain open until May 7, 2012.

Written comments and information concerning this proposal can be submitted by one of the following methods:
* Federal eRulemaking Portal: http://www.regulations.gov. Follow the instructions for submitting comments on Docket No. FWS-R9-IA-2010-0083.
* U.S. Mail or Hand-Delivery to: Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS-R9-IA-2010-0083, Division of Policy and Directives Management; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service; 4401 N. Fairfax Drive, MS 2042-PDM; Arlington, VA 22203.

Comments must be received within 60 days, on or before May 7, 2012. The Service will post all comments on http://www.regulations.gov. This generally means the agency will post any personal information provided through the process. The Service is not able to accept email or faxes.

To learn more about the Service's International Affairs program, visit:
http://www.fws.gov/international/.