Sustainable harvest of wildlife from waters beyond national jurisdiction discussed at CITES expert workshop

Updated on 14 May 2024


Geneva, 13 May 2024 — About 64 per cent of the world’s oceans are covered by what is known as “the high seas,” or areas beyond the jurisdiction of any State. When species regulated by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) are taken from the high seas and landed in a port, this trade is regulated under CITES and should not be detrimental to the survival of the species in the wild. The wide distribution of species in the high seas, coupled with the possible involvement of multiple nations in their harvest, underscores the unique challenge when it comes to determining the sustainability of harvest of these species. 

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Mandated by Decision 19.136 adopted by the 19th Meeting of the CITES Conference of the Parties (CoP19) in 2022, the CITES Secretariat organized the Workshop on Non-detriment findings (NDFs) for specimens of Appendix-II species taken from areas beyond national jurisdiction on 25-26 April 2024 in Geneva, Switzerland. The workshop was attended by more than 80 participants, comprising members of the CITES Animals Committee, delegates from each of the CITES regions, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the Secretariats of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS), the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) and the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), as well as representatives from non-governmental organizations.

The two-day workshop featured plenary and breakout group discussion sessions. Presentations were made by CITES Parties on their experiences in making Non-detriment findings (NDFs) for specimens taken from areas beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJ). The IATTC and ICCAT Secretariats presented the scientific processes under each Regional Fisheries Management Organization (RFMO), as well as the data and information available to CITES Authorities as it relates to CITES-listed species. 

The discussions ranged from the level at which NDFs should be made, especially when there are defined stocks, to the types of scientific data and information needed. The mechanisms of cooperation between national CITES Scientific Authorities and international scientific authorities, including sharing of data, case studies, and experience in making NDFs were also discussed.

CITES Secretary-General Ivonne Higuero said: “The strength of the Convention lies in our capability and capacity to achieve its mission through effective implementation. This of course requires all Parties to possess a clear understanding of the intricacies of the CITES regulatory framework – most often achieved through our collaborative dialogue and scientific exchange.”

Summing up the discussions over the two days, a series of recommendations has been proposed by the workshop, including:

  • NDFs should be made at a stock level, if stocks are defined for the species, and 
  • Collaboration between CITES and fisheries authorities should be encouraged, while engagement with RFMOs to access crucial data should be promoted. 

The recommendations advocate for regional collaboration and the establishment of networks to facilitate information sharing and capacity building. Emphasizing inclusivity, the recommendations also highlight the significance of utilizing various sources of scientific expertise when interpreting the role of international scientific authorities that could be consulted to make NDFs.

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

Find more information about this workshop here.


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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. 

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