CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) is an international agreement between governments that regulates international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants to prevent threatening their survival.
Widespread contemporary information about the endangered status of many prominent species, such as tigers and elephants, makes the need for such a Convention obvious.
Annually, international wildlife trade is estimated to be worth billions of dollars and involves hundreds of millions of plant and animal specimens. This trade is diverse, ranging from live animals and plants to a vast array of wildlife products derived from them, including food products, exotic leather goods, wooden musical instruments, timber, tourist curios and medicines.
The exploitation level of some animal and plant species is high and, together with other factors such as habitat loss, can heavily impact populations and even bring some species close to extinction.
The effort to regulate wildlife trade requires international cooperation to safeguard certain species from over-exploitation. Today, CITES provides varying degrees of protection to more than 35,000 species of animals and plants. But when CITES was first formed, in the 1960s, international discussion about the regulation of wildlife trade was relatively new.
CITES was drafted as a result of a resolution adopted in 1963 at a meeting of members of IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature). The text of the Convention was finally agreed at a meeting of representatives of 80 countries in Washington, D.C., the United States of America, on 3 March 1973, and on 1 July 1975 CITES entered into force.
For many years CITES has been among the conservation agreements with the largest membership, with now 182 Parties.
Since 1997 OceanCare has worked under the umbrella of the Species Survival Network (SSN) and has participated in CITES meetings to promote the conservation of marine species in general and of whales, dolphins, manatees, seals, sharks and polar bears in particular through trade restrictions or bans.