Non-detriment findings

In accordance with Articles III and IV of the Convention, export permits for specimens of species included in Appendices I and II shall be granted only when a Scientific Authority of the State of export has advised that such export will not be detrimental to the survival of the species (a determination known as a 'non-detriment finding' or NDF).

Provisions of the Convention

Article III states that the import of specimens of Appendix I-listed species requires import permits that shall only be granted when a Scientific Authority of the State of import has advised that the import will be for purposes, which are not detrimental to the survival of the species involved. 

Article IV furthermore requires that a Scientific Authority monitors exports of specimens of Appendix II-listed species and, whenever necessary, advises the Management Authority of suitable measures to be taken to limit such exports in order to maintain such species throughout their range at a level consistent with their role in the ecosystems and well above the level at which they would qualify for Appendix I.

Articles III and IV also require that the introduction from the sea of specimen of species included in Appendix I or II shall only be granted when a Scientific Authority advises that such introduction will not be detrimental to the survival of the species involved.

Resolutions and Decisions

Other Resolutions and Decisions that mention and provide advice on NDFs can be found on the Resolutions and Decisions pages.

NDF Database - capacity building materials

The CITES NDF database contains NDF guidance, NDFs, case studies, and supplementary information to assist Parties with making NDFs. NDF materials are available in all official languages of the Convention, and selected documents are available in additional languages.

Under "Advanced search", all documents contained in the CITES NDF database can be filtered according to, inter alia:

  • Type NDF material
  • Language
  • Lifeform
  • Species
  • Source code
  • Trade type
  • Appendix listing
  • Geographical coverage

Users can access a quick summary of key information for each material by clicking on its title. Direct hyperlinks to all related documents in all available languages are provided below each title.

Current policies on NDFs

  • Resolution Conf. 10.3 on the Designation and role of the Scientific Authorities stipulates that the advice of Scientific Authorities be based on the scientific review of available information on the population status, distribution, population trend, harvest and other biological and ecological factors, as appropriate, and trade information relating to the species concerned.
  • Resolution Conf. 16.7 (Rev. CoP17) on Non-detriment findings recommends that a non-detriment finding for an Appendix-I or -II species is the result of a science-based assessment that verifies whether a proposed export is detrimental to the survival of that species or not. NDFs should consider whether the species would be maintained throughout its range at a level consistent with its role in the ecosystems in which it occurs. The Resolution also recommends concepts and non-binding guiding principles that Scientific Authorities should take into account when considering whether trade would be detrimental to the survival of a species, including data and information requirements, methodologies, species monitoring and management, and relevant sources of information.
  • In Resolution Conf. 13.2 (Rev. CoP14) on Sustainable use of biodiversity: Addis Ababa Principles and Guidelines, Parties were urged, when adopting NDF processes and making CITES NDFs, to make use of the Principles and Guidelines for the Sustainable Use of Biodiversity (Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, 2004) taking into account scientific, trade and enforcement considerations determined by national circumstances. At CoP14 (The Hague, 2007), Parties further agreed to take into consideration some recommendations on this point made by the Animals and Plants Committees. These are contained in Annex 2 to the revised Resolution Conf. 13.2 (Rev. CoP14). The Committees advised that, although the Addis Ababa Principles and Guidelines are not always immediately applicable to the decision-making process under CITES, particularly with respect to making NDFs, they could nevertheless support the existing IUCN guidance for the making of NDFs and would be valuable for the development of taxon-specific guidelines, for instance for tree species. They highlighted Principles 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 11 and 12 which, on a case-by-case basis, may be considered for possible development of further taxon-specific NDF guidelines.
  • In Resolution Conf. 14.7 (Rev. CoP15) on Management of nationally established quotas, the Parties recognized the linkage between export quotas and NDFs and adopted guidelines to manage these quotas. In particular, they agreed that an export quota system is a management tool, used to ensure that exports of specimens of a certain species are maintained at a level that has no detrimental effect on the population of the species. The setting of an export quota advised by a Scientific Authority effectively meets the requirement of CITES to make an NDF for species included in Appendix I or II and, for species in Appendix II, to ensure that the species is maintained throughout its range at a level consistent with its role in the ecosystems in which it occurs. When export quotas are established for the first time or revised, this should be as a result of an NDF by a Scientific Authority and this NDF should be reviewed annually.

CITES NDF guidance

In the CITES NDF project, Parties, observers and independent experts developed an overarching NDF guidance, through eleven online workstreams, and a global expert workshop that was attended by more than 150 participants from 42 Parties and 25 organizations. The CITES NDF guidance is based on an inventory and gap analysis of previously available materials and therefore intended to be complementary to these.


The CITES NDF guidance is available in all official languages of the Convention and introduces Parties to generic concepts of relevance to NDFs, including risk and uncertainty, adaptive management, and species' roles in their ecosystems. A comprehensive 5-step process for making NDFs entails both simplified and comprehensive approaches for making NDFs for the export of specimen regulated under Appendices I and II, the import of specimen regulated under Appendix I, and for introduction from the sea.

Version 1.0 has been published for consideration at the 33rd meeting of the Animals Committee and the 27th meeting of the Plants Committee in July 2024.

 Module 0Introduction and preamble (V1.0)
Generic guidanceModule 1Principles and concepts of NDFs (V1.0)
Module 2Practical considerations for making NDFs (V1.0)
Thematic modulesModule 3Incorporation of local and traditional knowledge and participatory species monitoring in making NDFs (V1.0)
Module 4NDFs for Appendix I imports (V1.0)
Module 5NDFs for aquatic species (V1.0)
Module 6NDFs for migratory species and transboundary populations (V1.0)
Module 7NDFs for terrestrial invertebrates (V1.0)
Module 8NDFs for birds (V1.0)
Module 9NDFs for reptiles (V1.0)
Module 10NDFs for tree species (V1.0)
Module 11NDFs for perennial plants (V1.0)
Supporting modulesModule 12Online tools and certifications and their relevance to NDFs (V1.0)
Module 13Templates (V1.0)
Module 14Case studies (V1.0)
Module 15Glossary (V1.0)

CITES stakeholders have developed a variety of additional materials to assist Parties in making NDFs that can be accessed in the CITES NDF database. Users are encouraged to search for additional materials that may be specific to certain species, regions, or that may contain complementary tools and approaches. Some NDF guidances are widely used, including: 

All species Rosser and Haywood (2002)  
Sharks Mundy-Taylor et al. (2014) Available in E, Es, F
Seahorses Foster and Vincent (2016) Available in E, Es, F, external website
Tortoises and Freshwater Turtles van Dijk (2015)  
Snakes Natusch et al. (2015)  
Perennial Plants Wolf et al. (2016) Available in E, Es, F, It, Ka, Ko, Zh, worksheets in  E, Es, F, It, Ka, Ko, Zh, online courses & external website
TreesWolf et al. (2018) Available in E, Es, Ko, Nl, Pt, worksheets in E, Es, Ko, Nl, Pt, online courses & external website

CITES Resolution Conf. 16.7 (Rev. CoP17) on Non-Detriment Findings states that because of the great variety of taxa, life forms and biological characteristics of species included in Appendices I and II, there are various ways a Scientific Authority can make non-detriment findings. Consequently, all NDF guidance is non-prescriptive. It is normal that Parties may wish to use certain aspect of NDF guidance and not others, and some Parties may decide not to use any NDF guidance in their system. The Convention does not dictate that Parties must follow the particular frameworks or systems provided in NDF guidance. The guidance is provided to assist Parties, as appropriate, and there is no requirement that Parties utilise or follow the NDF guidance in the modules of this document.

Parties should note that the case studies and example NDFs contained throughout all NDF guidance serve as illustrative examples of specific considerations relating to the making of NDFs. Case studies are not endorsed by the CITES Secretariat, or the governing bodies of the Convention, are not necessarily considered to satisfy all criteria relevant to the making of NDFs, and should not be considered as such.

Users of NDF guidance should be aware that Parties may wish to implement Stricter Domestic Measures for trade in CITES-listed species in their country. Parties completing NDFs using guidance provided on this website should be aware that this does not replace or subsume the rules of Article XIV of the Convention.

A short history of CITES NDF guidance

  • In 1992, the CoP adopted Resolution Conf. 8.6 on the Role of the Scientific Authority. It directed the Secretariat to prepare general guidelines for conducting appropriate scientific reviews by Scientific Authorities to make findings as required in Articles III, IV and V of the Convention; and to provide these guidelines to the Animals Committee and Plants Committee for review.
  • At CoP10 (Harare, 1997), Resolution Conf. 8.6 was replaced by Resolution Conf. 10.3* on Designation and role of the Scientific Authorities. With this change, the instruction to prepare general guidelines for conducting appropriate scientific reviews by Scientific Authorities was replaced by an encouragement to the Parties, the Secretariat and interested non-governmental organizations to develop and support workshops and seminars designed specifically to improve the implementation of CITES by Scientific Authorities. In response, IUCN led a workshop in October 1998 and another in October 1999, the second under contract from the Secretariat. These resulted in a report: CITES Scientific Authorities’ Checklist to assist in making Non-detriment Findings for Appendix II Exports. The report was made available at CoP11 (Gigiri, 2000) as document Inf. 11.3 and was subsequently been published by IUCN (Rosser and Haywood, 2002). The Checklist helps identify the factors that should be taken into account when making NDFs and assists Scientific Authorities in understanding the strengths and weaknesses of the information at their disposal.
  • On the initiative of Mexico, through document CoP14 Doc. 35 presented at CoP14, the Parties decided to call for an international expert workshop on NDFs to enhance CITES Scientific Authorities’ capacities, particularly those related to the methodologies, tools, information, expertise and other resources needed to formulate NDFs. The resulting International Expert Workshop on CITES Non-Detriment Findings was held in Cancún, Mexico from 17 to 22 November 2008. It was attended by 103 participants from 33 countries of the six CITES regions.
  • Subsequent to this workshop, multiple guidance materials were developed by CITES Parties and stakeholders, often directed by CoP Decisions for specific taxa, including through dedicated programs, such as the CITES Tree Species Programme (CTSP).
  • Arising from this initiative and on the basis of a proposal from the Animals and Plants Committees, the Conference of the Parties adopted at CoP16 Resolution Conf. 16.7 on Non-detriment findings which inter alia provides a number of concepts and non-binding guiding principles for Scientific Authorities to take into account in considering whether trade may be detrimental to the survival of a species. The Resolution further encourages Parties to maintain written records of the science-based rationale for NDF assessments, to explore methods for making NDFs, to share their experiences and provide assistance to developing countries to improve their capacity to make NDFs.
  • The CITES Secretariat maintains the CITES NDF database in which NDF materials can be shared, accessed, and searched.
  • In response to Decisions 18.132 – 134, the Secretariat published an inventory and review of apparent gaps and needs for updated or additional guidance on making NDFs: AC31 Doc. 14.1/ PC25 Doc. 17. At the 31st meeting of the Animals Committee, and the 25th meeting of the Plants Committee (online, May 2021), both Committees discussed the review of apparent gaps and needs to identify priorities for additional or improved NDF guidance materials, and Germany announced its financial support, to:
  1. Develop new or improved draft NDF guidance to address gaps and weaknesses in NDF guidance currently available to CITES Parties;
  2. Organize an international interdisciplinary expert workshop to review, advance or complete the new or improved guidance materials;
  3. Test the new NDF guidance on the ground to evaluate its use by CITES Scientific Authorities in support of making NDFs, and adjust the guidance as need be; and
  4. Make the NDF guidance resources globally available through the CITES website and other channels as appropriate, promote uptake and use, and offer the means for Parties to provide feedback to enable future adaptations as needed.
  • With funding from Germany, the European Union and Switzerland, the Secretariat launched the CITES NDF project at a side event at CoP19 (2022, Panama City) and the Conference of the Parties adopted Decisions 19.132 to 19.134 to continue this work. The Scientific Advisory Bodies formed a technical advisory group (TAG) to advise on this project and discussed document PC26 Doc. 17 / AC32 Doc. 16. Draft NDF guidance was developed in collaboration with IUCN in 11 online workstreams and further improved at a global expert workshop (4-8 December 2023, Nairobi).
  • Current NDF guidance will be considered by the Scientific Advisory Bodies, which will, inter alia, advise on a strategy and feedback mechanism for Parties and the wider CITES community to share experiences with using NDF guidance materials to review and further update NDF materials in the future as may be needed.

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