Strengthening cooperation for sustainable and legal trade in fish and fish products

Updated on 12 July 2023


Geneva, 5 July 2023 — Fish and fish products are among the most highly traded wildlife commodities. People around the world sell and buy all kinds of commercially exploited aquatic species, including those listed in the Appendices of the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), as food and for their livelihoods. Amid rising demand in the fisheries sector, it is critical for institutions to work together to ensure that trade in fish and fish products is sustainable, legal and traceable.

AC32 side event FAO-CITES view of presenters

At the 32nd Meeting of the CITES Animals Committee in Geneva (19 – 23 June 2023), the CITES Secretariat, the Development Law Service of the Legal Office (LEGN) of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) and the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) co-hosted a side event titled “FAO-CITES: strengthening institutional cooperation for better sustainability and Legality Findings in the fisheries sector.”

The event showcased the importance of partnerships for effective implementation of CITES-listings. Key findings of the legal training workshops on CITES and fisheries were presented, together with the results of the UNCTAD-OECS Blue BioTrade Project. This project aims to empower small-scale coastal producers in the Caribbean region by promoting sustainable livelihoods, legal trade and conservation of marine biodiversity.

In her opening remarks, CITES Secretary-General Ivonne Higuero said: “I am a strong advocate of the importance of partnerships and nowhere is this more crucial than when it comes to the marine species. There are three key areas that we must keep in mind in order to enhance synergies under our joint processes: 1) succinct and targeted information sharing, 2) thematic dialogue between agency counterparts at appropriate levels, and 3) the convening of events such as this one where opportunities to collaborate can and do emerge.

In his introductory presentation, the CITES Secretariat Chief of Legal Unit, Juan Carlos Vasquez, reiterated the core focus of the Convention by highlighting the importance of supporting species-based conservation measures for the sustainability of the fisheries, the oceans and the livelihoods of the communities. He encouraged the sustainable use of Appendix II species, taking into consideration environmental conservation concerns for the species and their role in the ocean ecosystems.

AC32 FAO-CITES side event meeting room viewFAO shared key findings from legal training workshops carried out with seven Pacific Island countries (2021), 11 Caribbean countries (2022), and 13 Latin American and Caribbean countries (2023), which trained participants on linkages between CITES and fisheries and on how to use the FAO-CITES Legal Study and Guide. FAO Legal Officer, Julia Nakamura, underscored the importance of “the collaboration between fisheries authorities and CITES authorities, through sharing of information, data, and other relevant evidence that can support the making of legal acquisition findings (LAF) and non-detriment findings (NDF) for commercially exploited aquatic species included in CITES Appendix II.”

A panel featured perspectives on institutional cooperation with respect to introduction from the sea (IFS), NDFs and LAFs from two Animals Committee Members: Mr. Mauro Gongora, Fisheries Department Officer of Belize and Mr. Hugh Robertson, Conservation Scientist of the Department of Conservation of New Zealand and vice-Chair of the 32nd Meeting of the CITES Animals Committee.

Panelist Ms. Frida Rodriguez from the Peruvian delegation said: “Since the inclusion of the first commercially important shark species for Peru, we have experienced significant changes and reforms in the implementation of the CITES Convention in our country for hydrobiological species. These include a traceability system for Shark Landing Certificates, the implementation of fishing quotas for hammerhead sharks, and the development of Non-Detriment Findings for the species involved in the international trade of shark products. However, further work is required and, in turn, cross-border cooperation among countries that share stocks of shark species needs to be strengthened in order to achieve comprehensive management.”

This event continued the discussions held at the CITES 19th Conference of the Parties (CoP19) side event that FAO and CITES Secretariat co-hosted in November 2022 in Panama City.


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About LEGN - Development Law Service of the Legal Office of FAO

The Development Law Service is the FAO unit providing neutral, independent advice through tailor-made legal instruments from a participatory, cross-sectoral and multi-disciplinary systems approach. It is specialised across all areas under FAO’s mandate and boasts a network of national legal specialists by providing national, regional and international expertise in development of national legal frameworks.

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About CITES - Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) was signed on 3 March 1973 and entered into force on 1 July 1975. With 184 Parties (183 countries + the European Union), it remains one of the world's most powerful tools for wildlife conservation through the regulation of international trade in over 40,900 species of wild animals and plants. CITES-listed species are used by people around the world in their daily lives for food, health care, furniture, housing, tourist souvenirs, cosmetics or fashion. CITES seeks to ensure that international trade in such species is sustainable, legal and traceable and contributes to both the livelihoods of the communities that live closest to them and to national economies for a healthy planet and the prosperity of the people in support of UN Sustainable Development Goals.

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