Laws and Regulations
CITES- Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is an international treaty enacted in 1975 designed to ensure that international trade in animals and plants won’t threaten their survival in the wild. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is responsible for carrying out the provisions under CITES for the United States, which is a signatory party along with 170 other countries around the world.
Under CITES, species can be listed on three different “Appendices” according to how their current populations are doing in the wild and how much protection they need.
Forfeited shipment of Sturgeon (caviar) skin cream due to failure to obtain a CITES Appendix II export permit from the country of origin. Credit: USFWS.
Hawksbill sea turtle mounts at the National Wildlife Property Repository. Additional protection for these turtles has resulted in a reduction in demand for parts and products, but they are still at risk from illicit trade and climate change. Credit: USFWS.
- Appendix 1 species are the most protected because they demonstrate the greatest threat of extinction. Commercial trade in these species is prohibited. Examples of Appendix 1 species include tigers, rhinos, gorillas, and elephants.
- Appendix II species are not under immediate threat of extinction but warrant close monitoring in trade to ensure their numbers are sustainable. These species require an export permit for international trade.
- Appendix III species have regulated trade by certain countries (parties) and are listed to solicit the cooperation of other countries so that the trade in these species does not become unsustainable.
A CITES permit issued by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is required to import live or dead specimens, or parts and products made from them into the United States.
Learn more here: https://www.fws.gov/international/cites/index.html
Endangered Species Act
The Endangered Species Act (ESA) was enacted in 1973 to protect populations of plants and animals that face imminent threat of extinction or endangerment in the future. Protection may also extend to the habitat of these species that is critical for their survival. Unless permitted, it is illegal to import, export, take, transport, sell, purchase, or engage in interstate and foreign commerce species listed as endangered or threatened. The ESA also implements CITES to protect species that are at risk due to wildlife trade. The number of species on the list changes as new species are added or delisted if population numbers are deemed to have passed the threat of extinction.
One of the first wildlife protection laws, The Lacey Act makes it illegal to have any wildlife that was taken in violation of international, federal, state, or Indian tribal law. First enacted in 1900, the Lacey Act prohibits interstate and foreign trafficking of wildlife. This covers all species protected under CITES Appendices. The National Wildlife Property Repository operates off funds generated by Lacey Act violation fees.
Marine Mammal Protection Act
This act prohibits people from taking, importing, transporting, purchasing, and selling marine mammals and their products unless they obtain a special exemption. These mammals are protected in any ocean/sea or land controlled by the United States. Some examples of the species protected by this act include whales, dolphins, seals, sea lions, walrus, polar bears, manatees, and sea otters.
Migratory Bird Treaty Act
The Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA) protects almost all native North American birds by prohibiting killing, capture, and possession for meat, pet or feather trade. MBTA is now an international agreement among the United States, Mexico, Canada, Russia, and Japan. Under the act, it is also unlawful to use the nests, eggs, and feathers even if they were naturally molted. Regulated hunting allows for the taking of game birds during established seasons.
Learn more here: https://www.fws.gov/birds/policies-and-regulations/laws-legislations/migratory-bird-treaty-act.php