Deep dive into the application of criteria to amend the CITES Appendices for commercially exploited aquatic species

Updated on 14 May 2024


Geneva, 10 May 2024 — Aquatic species such as sharks, queen conch, seahorses and teatfish are among the over 40,900 animal and plant species whose trade is regulated by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna (CITES). They are listed in the CITES Appendices according to criteria that are agreed upon by CITES Parties and applied to various taxonomic groups. With the recent increase in commercially exploited sharks and rays (Elasmobranchii) and other aquatic species included in the CITES Appendices, a decision to take a closer look at how the criteria are applied to these species came to focus at the 19th meeting of the Conference of Parties (CoP19) in Panama City in 2022. 

Mobula rays © leonardogonzalez / Adobe Stock

On 23 and 24 April 2024, the CITES Secretariat facilitated the Workshop on aquatic species listed in the CITES Appendices in Geneva, Switzerland as called for in Decision 19.189 on Aquatic species listed in the CITES Appendices. The workshop was attended by over 80 participants, comprising CITES Parties, Members of the CITES Animals Committee, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and other relevant intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations.

CITES Secretary-General Ms. Ivonne Higuero said: “Scientific and technical exchanges are fundamental in our work to conserve and sustainably use our magnificent aquatic species. With the vast knowledge, data, and expertise represented at this workshop, we are well-equipped to engage in meaningful discussions and deliberations.

Over the course of two days, experts presented scientific information on life history parameters of aquatic species, followed by moderated plenary and breakout group discussions. The deliberations included sharing experiences with past proposals for amendment to the CITES Appendices on aquatic species and examining the application of ranges of decline for commercially exploited aquatic species, to assess whether these species meet the criteria to be included in the CITES Appendices. 

The workshop participants generally agreed that the current criteria have the necessary flexibility to be effectively applied to commercially exploited aquatic species, and a number of recommendations to be considered by the CITES Animals Committee later this year. These recommendations entail noting the background document on the Variability of life history parameters and productivity in elasmobranchs and other commercially exploited aquatic species, as it includes a wealth of information on life history parameters and productivity for aquatic species. In light of the extensive historical discourse on the development and the interpretation of the criteria to amend the CITES Appendices, it was suggested that previous discussions on this matter be collated to inform the need for potential future guidance.

The conclusions of the workshop will be submitted to the 33rd Meeting of the CITES Animals Commitee that is scheduled to take place from 12 to 19 July 2024 for consideration. The Animals Committee will make recommendations to the CITES Standing Committee at its 78th Meeting in February 2025. 


Find more information about this workshop here.



Editor’s Notes: 

For media enquiries, please contact [email protected] 

For general enquiries, please contact [email protected]

About CITES 

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. 

Follow CITES on social media: 

Find out more: