For use of the media
not an official document.
FAO-CITES agreement promotes
sustainable fish trade
Collaborative relationship formalized in MoU
3 October 2006, Geneva/Rome – What do seahorses, whale
sharks and Caribbean queen conches have in common?
three are species whose international trade is regulated by the
Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild
Fauna and Flora (CITES). They are also commercially exploited
aquatic species whose good management falls within the purview
of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO).
Seahorses are valued worldwide as ornamental fish for display
in aquariums and in Asia as an ingredient in traditional medicine.
Demand for whale shark fins and for the tender meat of queen conches
is also high. In some places this has led to over-harvesting and
concerns about the survival of the populations, so the international
community has agreed to regulate their trade under CITES.
This means that a country that wishes to export live or dead
seahorses, whale sharks or queen conches must first certify through
CITES that they were legally harvested and that their trade will
not be detrimental to the survival of the species in the wild.
Including a species in CITES, though, is only a start. Just as
important is making sure that controls for enforcing the listing
are effectively implemented by all trading countries.
This is frequently a problem. In the case of the queen conch,
for instance, listing the species in CITES Appendix II did not
halt over-fishing, and concerns about the species have continued.
CITES therefore teamed up with fisheries experts at FAO and with
authorities in exporting countries in an effort to gauge the state
of wild conch stocks, assess management practices more effectively,
and ensure that only responsibly managed fisheries were participating
in international trade. Doing so has made it easier for CITES
to assess accurately where there is a problem and to help countries
put controls in place as needed.
This cooperation is helping to ensure that this valuable resource
is used sustainably.
Building on this encouraging example, FAO and CITES are now also
working together on other listed fish species (such as giant clams,
sturgeon and humphead wrasse) as well as others that are being
considered for a CITES listing, including sea cucumbers and several
Formal agreement cements working relationship
CITES and FAO have now formalized their working relationship
in a Memorandum of
Understanding (MoU) signed today by CITES Secretary-General
Willem Wijnstekers and FAO Assistant Director-General for Fisheries
Under the MoU, FAO and CITES will review and consult together
on the scientific, legal and technical evaluation of commercially
exploited aquatic species listed or proposed for listing in the
For species that are already listed or set to become so, FAO
will work with CITES and exporting countries to improve the monitoring
and management of fisheries resources and help them ensure that
exports only come from responsibly managed operations. FAO will
also organize workshops and other activities to help national
authorities strengthen fishery management across the board.
“This MoU provides a new opportunity for FAO to deploy
our expertise in fisheries biology and policy in a very practical,
concrete way,” said Mr. Nomura. “In working with CITES
to promote and encourage sustainable fisheries and responsible
fish trade in those cases where international trade has led to
serious conservation concerns, we hope to add to our efforts to
make sure that people round the world can continue to feed themselves
and earn their incomes from fisheries and trading fish products,
According to Mr. Wijnstekers, "CITES and FAO have a long
history of technical cooperation, and the new MoU gives us a solid
basis for making that cooperation more robust at the national
and international levels. It allows us to achieve more together
than we have been able to achieve separately in the management
and conservation of aquatic resources by combining the regulatory
measures of CITES with the technical expertise of FAO.”
The value of the international trade in fish products recently
reached a record high of USD$71 billion, according to FAO statistics.
While this trade often strengthens food security and improves
incomes in developing nations, both CITES and FAO have called
on fishing nations to be wary that it does not harm wild stocks.
For more information please contact:
Media Relations, FAO
(+39) 06 570 53168
(+39) 348 141 6802
Juan Carlos Vasquez
Legal Affairs Officer, CITES
(+41) 22 917 8156
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