What is our mission?

The mission of the Division of Scientific Authority (DSA) is to serve as the U.S. Scientific Authority for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). We provide scientific advice on the issuance of permits for international trade; the listing of native and foreign species under CITES; implementation of the Wild Bird Conservation Act (WBCA); and other policy matters, particularly as they may relate to international wildlife trade and exotic species.

How are we organized?

DSA is one of three divisions within the International Affairs Program of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (Service), which is an agency within the Department of the Interior.

What role does the Division of Scientific Authority play in the implementation of CITES?

The Conference of the Parties (CoP) meets every three years for two weeks, where member nations review how the treaty is working, resolve policy issues, and determine if the Appendices need to be amended. There are also regular meetings of the CITES Animals Committee and Plants Committee, which address scientific and technical issues to aid the Convention in accomplishing its objectives.

DSA biologists are responsible for providing scientific analysis and recommendations on issues and matters involving the implementation of CITES in the United States. This includes:

  • identifying, assessing, and recommending species for protection through listings in the CITES appendices or a change in their current listing status;
  • evaluating CITES documents and technical proposals for meetings of the CoPs and of the Animals and Plants Committees (including listing proposals, status reviews, and other technical proposals submitted by other countries);
  • monitoring trade and the status of the species in the wild;
  • reviewing export/import permit applications of protected species to determine if trade in the species would be detrimental to the survival of the species. (In order for the permit to be issued, a non-detriment finding must be made by the DSA);
  • for Appendix-I species, determining prior to import whether a recipient is suitably equipped to house and care for a live specimen(s);
  • advising law enforcement officials on identification of species, taxonomy, nomenclature, and other scientific matters that may relate to enforcement;
  • participating on various international working groups and panels and sharing scientific expertise with colleagues within and outside the United States.

What role does the Division of Scientific Authority play in the implementation of the U.S. Endangered Species Act?

The Endangered Species Act (ESA) is a 1973 law that was passed to prevent the extinction of native and foreign animals and plants by providing measures to help alleviate the loss of species and their habitats. Under this law, the Secretary of the Interior and the Secretary of Commerce were given the joint responsibility for determining whether to place animals and plants on the Federal list of endangered and threatened species and for taking measures to protect and conserve the listed species. The Secretary of the Interior has delegated the Department’s responsibility to the Director of the Service. Foreign species may also be listed under the ESA, and the ESA is the law that implements U.S. participation in CITES.

What role does the Division of Scientific Authority play in the implementation of other domestic laws that apply to foreign or internationally traded species?

Another domestic law that applies to foreign or internationally traded species is the Wild Bird Conservation Act (WBCA). The WBCA limits imports of exotic bird species to ensure that their populations are not harmed by international trade. Rules implementing the act provide requirements for obtaining permits, establish an approved list of captive-bred species, and, with a few exceptions, prohibited imports of all birds listed under CITES. DSA biologists are responsible for providing scientific analysis and recommendations for the following actions:

  • evaluating permit applications for imports of species covered under the WBCA
  • evaluating applications for captive-breeding facilities and cooperative breeding programs
  • evaluating sustainable-use management plans submitted by other countries