Rome, Italy, 28-30 June 2000


Table of Contents


1. This Technical Consultation is invited to consider this report, FI:SLC/2000/2, and other relevant documentation provided for the Consultation by the Secretariat. It should consider and decide on any changes to be made to the report before submitting it to the Twenty-fourth Session of COFI (26 February - 2 March 2001). It should also formulate and recommend to COFI the elements of any recommendation to be made from the Twenty-fourth Session of COFI to CITES on the existing CITES listing criteria as they apply to commercially exploited aquatic, particularly marine, species.

2. For these purposes, it is recommended that discussion could focus on Sections 3 to 8 and the Appendix, with particular attention to Sections 5 and following. In formulating possible recommendations to COFI, attention could be focused on Sections 5 to 8 inclusive. Within these sections, Section 6 puts forward some specific suggestions on rewording the biological criteria, including the possibility of the addition of a new Criterion, and Section 8 lists some general conclusions and concerns. The Technical Consultation should consider these suggestions and develop a recommendation on the listing criteria and possible changes to them, to be forwarded to the Twenty-fourth Session of COFI.


3. The purpose of CITES is to reduce risk, in terms of probability of species extinction, through restrictions on trade, by listing of species considered to be threatened with extinction, according to specified criteria. Species may be listed in Appendix I (trade is banned), Appendix II (trade is possible only with certifications and permits), or Appendix III (countries seeking international support in controlling trade in species they list voluntarily).

4. Until the early 1990s, CITES listing was primarily of species other than exploited aquatic fishes or invertebrates. Through the 1990s, attempts to list exploited marine fishes raised questions regarding the appropriateness of the listing criteria for these species. The IUCN has been a primary source of technical input into the CITES process of setting criteria, and has been addressing similar concerns about the applicability of their listing criteria for exploited aquatic species.

5. During the 10th session of the CITES Conference of Parties in 1997 (Harare, Zimbabwe) a proposal was tabled for a Working Group for Marine Species, to address concerns that the general CITES criteria might not be appropriate to deal with exploited and managed fishery resources. Concern about this was brought to the attention of the FAO Committee on Fisheries (COFI) Sub-Committee on Fish Trade (Bremen, Germany - June 1998), where it was agreed that FAO would appoint "an ad hoc group to make suggestions on how such a process of scientific review might best be pursued, leading perhaps to proposals for amendment to and/or appropriate interpretation of the CITES criteria in the context of marine fish species under large-scale commercial harvest". The ad hoc group met in Cape Town (November 1998), studied the COFI Sub-Committee on Fish Trade proposal, and suggested steps for scientific review of the current CITES criteria for Appendix I and II listings, in the context of harvested marine species.

6. At its Twenty-third Session (Rome, Italy, February 1999) COFI endorsed the report of the FAO ad hoc Expert Group and agreed with its recommendations regarding the approach to reviewing the listing criteria. Correspondingly, the FAO Secretariat, assisted by three consultants, considered the Report of the meeting of the FAO ad hoc Expert Group and prepared a comprehensive report entitled "An appraisal of the suitability of the CITES criteria for listing commercially-exploited aquatic species". That was published by FAO as Fisheries Circular No. 954. This present document is a summary of the key points and conclusions described in the Fisheries Circular.

7. Together with the reports of the Cape Town meeting and of the Twenty-third Session of COFI, Fisheries Circular 954 has been distributed to FAO member states and a number of relevant organizations and other interested parties. It has been made available to CITES as preliminary information on the FAO process.

8. The Twenty-fourth Session of COFI will make a decision on whether to express opinions and recommendations to CITES on the existing CITES listing criteria as they apply to commercially exploited aquatic species and, if so, the nature of these. CITES is currently undergoing a review of its criteria and may take any material submitted by COFI into account in its review process


9. Aquatic species vary considerably in attributes that may affect vulnerability to extinction, including life history attributes, habitats, and fisheries that exploit harvested species. The diversity of life-histories, habitats, and patterns of exploitation present many conditions which are rare among terrestrial animals. Therefore, criteria which evaluate risk of extinction appropriately for birds and mammals could break down when applied to aquatic species, particularly those that are exploited.

10. The scientific literature was reviewed1 relative to the implications of life history, habitats, and fishery attributes for risk of extinction and potential conservation benefits of trade restrictions, by summarizing reported extinctions and cases of high risk, and asking:

how many aquatic species have actually gone extinct in recent times;
what characteristics did they share and what caused their losses; and
what conservation measures would reverse the declining trend in aquatic biodiversity?

11. Key life-history characteristics considered include:

adult body size;
reproductive and mating strategy;
sex changes;
distributional range;
patterns of movement;
opportunity for long-distance passive dispersal of eggs and larvae;
population sub-structure;
niche differentiation across sizes or life-history stages; and
density dependence of growth, maturity, fecundity, etc, in response to exploitation.

12. Key characteristics of aquatic habitats include:

area and depth;
exposure to disturbance by human activities; and
degree of habitat fragmentation and isolation from recolonisation sources.

13. Major modes of exploitation of aquatic resources include:

large-scale commercial fisheries, targeting widely distributed, abundant populations;
modern small-scale commercial fisheries, exploiting many small and large stocks; and
traditional artisanal fisheries, exploiting very small to large stocks, often in areas of high biodiversity.

14 Each exploitation mode contains fisheries that differ in the numbers of species targeted and taken as bycatch. Investment in monitoring and management tends to vary from high in large-scale commercial fisheries to often negligible in small-scale and artisanal fisheries.

15 There are few documented cases of recent extinctions of marine fishes and invertebrates. None of the located cases were harvested commercially, or suffered significant mortality as bycatch. Freshwater species have been lost at much greater rates. For some freshwater species, over-harvesting was a major contributor along with introduced predators or competitors. However, restricted distribution, narrow habitat requirements, or major habitat destruction characterize the majority of extinctions of freshwater fish.

16 The following generalizations appear reasonable:

a) large, long-lived, late-maturing species, with high or especially low fecundity, are at relatively high risk of extinction from exploitation;
b) small, short-lived species with restricted distribution in isolated habitats are at relatively high risk of extinction from non-exploitative human action (habitat destruction, localized catastrophy, etc);
c) small, short-lived species with reproductive specializations resulting in low intrinsic rate of population increase are at relatively high risk of extinction from exploitation and non-exploitative human action;
d) species in freshwater habitats are more likely than those in marine habitats to be at risk from habitat loss; and
e) proximity to large human populations tends to place species at greater risk, or make it more likely that risks will be identified and reported in the literature.


17. Assessing the implications of CITES for aquatic organisms requires positioning of CITES relative to other conservation mechanisms. National resource conservation legislation is the foundation for conservation, complemented by international organizations and instruments to achieve conservation of resources extending beyond EEZs. International action in marine habitats is based on UNCLOS and other more specific international conventions, agreements and arrangements for marine conservation. All recognize the role of regional fishery management organizations in the rationalization of fisheries. Reciprocally, international conservation instruments and agreements encourage fisheries organizations to include biodiversity, ecosystem management, and the precautionary approach in fisheries management.

18. General fisheries management objectives are the achievement of sustainable social and economic goals within the constraints set by the biology of the exploited species. Ecosystem management extends these objectives to include maintenance of healthy ecosystems for human use; particularly maintenance of biodiversity and environmental functions. In effective, or functional, fisheries management, these objectives are pursued through a series of increasingly restrictive management regimes: conventional fisheries management; ecosystem management; and fisheries management beyond limit reference points. Target and limit biological reference points are important in these management regimes, with more stringent regimes invoked as stocks fall below first target and then limit reference points.

19. Functional management measures (for use when fisheries objectives are being broadly met) may include measures to curb exploitation, technical measures to modify exploitation patterns, economic measures to address the drivers of over-exploitation, and social measures to increase compliance with regulations. Ecosystem management lays greater stress on the need for a precautionary approach and adaptable management, using similar measures as used by fisheries management but with broader intentions and swifter, more stringent application. Beyond limit reference points, the most stringent management measures, such as moratoria, may be necessary. Conventional fisheries management is likely to be more successful with commercially valuable species robust to exploitation, and when compliance with rules is high. Successful ecosystem management requires similar conditions for all species, regardless of commercial value.

20. Problems arise when profitability or lack of alternatives encourages violation of management rules for species which are biologically vulnerable and where the fishery systems are unable to ensure compliance with management regulations. In these cases additional measures such as the CITES mechanism to curb trade and hence to reduce value, are appropriate. Hence the species most at risk of extinction and for which criteria for listing under CITES might be more closely examined would be those:

of high value to allow particularly profitable operations (economic risk);

which are highly vulnerable to exploitation (bio-ecological risk);

for which normal management rules are non-existent or systematically violated (compliance risk).

21. The highest risk for the resources (including risk of extinction) and the area of greatest potential effectiveness of international trade measures is where all three factors are high. For species low in any one of the factors, trade restrictions are unlikely to be effective conservation tools. In particular, for endangered species of little market value, a CITES listing, although possibly giving additional moral force to conservation initiatives, offers little incremental protection beyond whatever other conservation actions have been taken.


22. It is necessary to evaluate the appropriateness of both CITES criteria and definitions for marine organisms, because definitions are central to interpreting the intent and applicability of the criteria. CITES could usefully consider entrenching aspects of definitions directly in their criteria.

23. The standard for evaluating current criteria is that perfect criteria would always assign traded species at risk of extinction to categories which ensured trade in those species was restricted, but would also avoid classifying species that were not at risk of extinction to categories which required unnecessary trade restrictions. Imperfect criteria risk producing false alarms (classifying species which are not at risk to a category requiring trade restrictions) and misses (failing to classify species at risk into categories offering them necessary protection from trade). Importantly, the consequences of errors are not symmetric nor shared equally among all concerned parties. False alarms protect species not truly at risk of extinction, although possibly poorly managed. Conservation advocates may not perceive this as bad, but it may have severe economic consequences. Misses would allow trade to continue in a species at risk of extinction, and the associated mortality could result in the population becoming non-viable, permanently losing biodiversity and future economic value.

24. CITES criteria dealing with trade rely on several articles of the CITES convention. Article I defines Trade as export, re-export, import and introduction from the sea. Article II indicates the extent that Trade should be involved in order that a species should be listed. The 1994 (Fort Lauderdale) resolution provides further clarification on the definitions of species affected by trade and look-alike species. When interpreting the term "in trade" in commercial fisheries, there is an important distinction between target species, which are definitely in Trade, and species taken as bycatch. Bycatch species are covered by CITES listing if, when taken incidentally, they are marketed. However, the trade that chiefly endangers bycatch species is trade in the target species of the fishery for which the species at risk forms a secondary bycatch. Some argue that in such cases trade in target species should be restricted, to protect the bycatch species at risk. Ramifications of such an approach to listing could render trade regulations for conservation objectives inoperable, with significant implications for terrestrial as well as marine listings. Therefore CITES listing of species at risk of extinction, and "look-alikes" should not be extended to non-threatened target species whose exploitation endangers other species. Such problems should be dealt with by instruments other than trade restrictions.


25. Criterion A for listing a species as at risk requires that:

A. The wild population is small, and is characterized by at least one of the following:

i. an observed, inferred or projected decline in the number of individuals or the area and quality of habitat; or

ii. each sub-population being very small; or

iii. a majority of individuals, during one or more life-history phases, being concentrated in one sub-population; or

iv. large short-term fluctuations in the number of individuals; or

v. a high vulnerability due to the species' biology or behaviour (including migration).

26. CITES definitions suggest values of 5 000 and 500 individuals as guidelines (not thresholds) for "small" populations and "very small" sub-populations.


27. Values of 5 000 and 500 are very small by fisheries management standards, but population viability modelling indicates they are large enough to provide a sufficiently low probability of extinction due to demographic, genetic, and environmental stochasticity. However, there are several additional concerns when applying Criterion A to aquatic fish and invertebrates. First, the numbers must apply to mature organisms with reasonable opportunity to reproduce. Second, the difficulties in estimating population sizes of marine organisms mean that at the low numbers indicated by the guidelines, many marine species would become almost impossible to count, and estimates of their numbers would have very large error bounds. Hence the guideline values are better taken as lower bounds of confidence intervals rather than the mean estimate of the population size. Third, marine populations may be widespread, and for some species numbers far higher than guideline values for "small" will be at densities so low that successful pairing is unlikely. Fourth, although 5 000 individuals may be sufficient for the species, sub-populations of 500 seem too small for many marine species, because compared to birds and mammals, fish gain less protection from social systems, harvesting is more aggregated, and environmental catastrophes may impact many sub-populations. Therefore, sub-populations may need to be larger in order to have acceptably low risk of extinction. Overall, the major concern is that CITES criterion A may allow misses.


28. Criterion B for listing a species as threatened with extinction requires that:

B. The wild population has a restricted area of distribution and is characterized by at least one of the following:

i) fragmentation or occurrence at very few locations; or

ii) large fluctuations in the area of distribution or the number of sub-populations; or

iii) a high vulnerability due to the species' biology or behaviour (including migration); or

iv) an observed, inferred or projected decrease in any one of the following: the area of distribution; the number of sub-populations; the number of individuals; the area or quality of habitat; reproductive potential.

29. Area of distribution is defined as the area within the shortest continuous boundary encompassing all known, inferred or projected sites of occurrence, but excluding areas where the species is absent. A figure of <10 000 km2 is suggested as an appropriate guideline (not threshold) of a restricted area of distribution.

30. Fragmentation is defined as most individuals being found in small, relatively isolated sub-populations with limited opportunities for re-establishment. An area of distribution of 500 km2 or less for each sub-population is suggested as a guideline (not threshold) of what constitutes fragmentation.


31. The guideline of 10 000 km2 may be too small for many marine species, and result in numerous misses. This danger of misses can be compounded for species with discontinuous distributions, such as around sea mounts, oceanic islands, or coral reefs, where patches of habitat might be separated by large areas of unsuitable open ocean. On the other hand, some marine fish and invertebrates are broadcast spawners capable of disseminating fertilized eggs widely through use of currents, rendering fragmentation sometimes less of a concern. This criterion is unlikely to produce numerous false alarms, if there is sufficient survey effort to have a reasonable probability of detecting the species of concern when present


32. Criterion C for listing a species as threatened with extinction requires that:

C: A decline in the number of individuals in the wild, which has been either:

i) observed as ongoing or as having occurred in the past (but with a potential to resume); or

ii) inferred or projected on the basis of any of the following:

a decrease in area or quality of habitat; or

levels or patterns of exploitation; or

threats from extrinsic factors such as the effects of pathogens, competitors, parasites, predators, hybridization, introduced species and the effects of toxins and pollutants; or

decreasing reproductive potential.

33. The CITES definitions (see Appendix to this document) suggest declines of 50 percent in numbers of the species as a whole, or 20 percent of population units as guidelines (not thresholds). Natural fluctuations are explicitly excluded, as are decreases in abundance due to planned management regimes.


34. The decline criterion C presents both conceptual and practical problems for applications to harvested marine species. The core conceptual concern is that the decline criterion may cause many false alarms. Many marine species may have experienced declines sufficiently large to prompt listing although the population remains so large that there is negligible risk of biological extinction. Listing such species could cause unnecessary social and economic disruption and would weaken the moral force of CITES' listing of those species which are truly at risk of extinction. Two practical concerns will often make implementation of the decline criterion difficult and controversial for exploited marine species. Inconclusive scientific evidence about causes of a decline invites debate about whether a decline is a "natural" fluctuation. Also, species' survivorship schedules and potential fecundity of spawners must be considered to interpret what a decline of any percentage means for a species' viability.

35. Despite the problems with both the concept and implementation of a listing criterion based solely on population decline, there is the possibility that there will be valid cases where no other criterion is available. A possible approach for exploited marine species is that if a species is capable of evaluation on Criteria A and/or B and fails to qualify under either criterion as being at risk of extinction, then it should not qualify for listing on the decline criterion alone. However, if no data exist to apply either Criterion A or B, then evaluations based on only Criterion C would be based on the best scientific information available. This approach is consistent with the precautionary approach, and encourages managers to collect appropriate data, so the species can be evaluated on CITES Criteria A and/or B.


36. Criterion D allows species which do not satisfy Criteria A-C to be nonetheless listed under Appendix I in accordance with Article II.

"The status of the species is such that if the species is not included in Appendix I, it is likely to satisfy one or more of the above criteria within a period of five years."


37. The terms of Criterion D build from Criteria A-C and preceding comments under these would also apply to proposed listings under Appendix II.


38. These criteria allow Appendix II listing when it is expected that:

the Appendix I Criteria A-C will be met in the near future; or

the conditions of exploitation are beyond sustainable levels.

39. A species should be included in Appendix II when either of the following criteria is met.

A. It is known, inferred or projected that unless trade in the species is subject to strict regulation, it will meet at least one of the criteria listed in CITES Annex 1 in the near future.

B. It is known, inferred or projected that the harvesting of specimens from the wild for international trade has, or may have, a detrimental impact on the species by either:

i) exceeding, over an extended period, the level that can be continued in perpetuity; or

ii) reducing it to a population level at which its survival would be threatened by other influences.


40. Annex 2a Bi , regarding harvesting having exceeded over an extended period the level that can be continued in perpetuity, presents no new problems, relative to issues discussed under criteria for listing under Appendix I. However, as with Appendix I criteria, to minimize both false alarms and misses with this criterion requires good judgment in interpreting "extended period" and "continued in perpetuity". Debate about listing species in Appendix II on this criterion should give due weight to management measures which have been implemented to reduce past excessive exploitation rates. If management has been ineffective at controlling past harvesting, provision 2a Bi may provide protection for highly vulnerable species with a history of overexploitation. With regard to criterion Annex 2a Bii, the biological concerns have been treated in the discussion of the Annex 1 criterion. If the "small population" criterion (A) is applied in a way which is meaningful for marine fish and invertebrates, the guideline for what is a "small population" should take adequate account of threats presented by "other influences". Situations where Criterion 2a Bii would be appropriate for conservation of marine fish and invertebrates should be rare.


41. This annex to the Fort Lauderdale criteria is commonly referred to as the "look-alike" provision.

42. Species should be included in Appendix II in accordance with Article II, paragraph 2(b) , if they satisfy one of the following criteria.

A. The specimens resemble specimens of a species included in Appendix II under the provisions of Article II, paragraph 2(a), or in Appendix I, such that a non-expert, with reasonable effort, is unlikely to be able to distinguish between them.

B. The species is a member of a taxon of which most of the species are included in Appendix II under the provisions of Article II, paragraph 2(a), or in Appendix I, and the remaining species must be included to bring trade in specimens of the others under effective control.


43. The problem posed for commercial fisheries by criterion Annex 2bA is that products are very commonly marketed in processed form. In such forms the species of origin of the product is often impossible to identify without sophisticated and expensive testing. Restrictions on trade in even a few marine fish could disrupt international commerce, and devastate coastal economies. Such consequences warrant serious thought before criteria with a high risk of yielding false alarms are used to assess the risk to commercially exploited species. The look-alike provisions could also be disruptive to the live aquarium trade, although the economic consequences would be of lesser magnitude and less widespread.


44. Annex 3 to the resolutions urges avoiding complicated split listings which create enforcement problems, but allows it where essential. Recognition that trade restrictions generally will not work at the stock level should not be interpreted as de-emphasizing the importance of managing fisheries sustainably on a stock by stock basis.


45. Annex 4 is concerned with the application of precautionary measures. The provisions of Clause B are sensible and prudent rules that apply equally well to marine and terrestrial species. Clause A risks being used in misguided attempts to list non-threatened target species of fisheries which take bycatches of endangered species.


46. Area of distribution: The definition is generally appropriate. Guidelines may need modifications as described in Paragraph 31.

47. Decline: Implications of this definition for exploited aquatic species are discussed in Paragraphs 34 and 35. Ideally, decline estimates would be based on population estimates. However, when population estimates are available, Criterion A should be used to evaluate status of the species. Therefore, this criterion would most likely be used when only indirect indices are available. The proposed rates appear appropriate bearing in mind that the 50 percent rate applies to Criterion C, whereas the 20 percent rate applies to Criterion A.

48. Large fluctuations: The definitions and guidelines appear reasonable. However aquatic populations are highly variable, and some stocks can show both precipitous declines where cessation of harvest may do little to alter the decline, and explosive increases, sometimes after decades of depressed abundance. Such information should be considered in reviews of the status of species.

49. Several definitions appear reasonable, if interpreted with the flexibility intended in the Annexes, including Population, Sub-populations, Possibly extinct, Threatened with extinction, Extended period, Fragmentation, Generation.



50. Changes in wording from the existing criteria are shown underlined.


Annex 1


51. The following criteria must be read in conjunction with the definitions, notes and guidelines listed in Annex 5.

A species can be considered to be threatened with extinction if it meets, or is likely to meet, either of Criterion A or Criterion B. Additionally, a species is considered to be threatened with extinction if it meets, or is likely meet Criterion C and if and only if data are considered inadequate_ to evaluate the status of the species relative to both Criteria A and B.


52. The wild population is small# (guideline {not threshold} <5 000), and is characterized by at least one of the following:

i) an observed, inferred, or projected decline in the number of individuals or the area and quality of habitat; or

ii) each sub-population being very small (guideline {not threshold}, the largest sub-population# is < than 2 000); or

iii) a majority of individuals, during one or more life-history phases, being concentrated in one sub-population; or

iv) large short-term fluctuations in the number of individuals; or

v) a high vulnerability due to the species' biology or behavior (including migration).


53. In undertaking the review there was substantial interest in specifying a population size sufficiently small that it, alone, would justify listing a species, regardless of evidence of information relative to sub-clauses. Lacking quantitative analysis to justify any specific lower value, an arbitrary "very small" value could not be proposed, but it is stressed that the guideline should be interpreted generously, and careful consideration be given to species which may be highly vulnerable due to Aiii) or Av).


54. The wild population has a very restricted area of distribution (guideline {not threshold}, <10 000km2) and is characterized by at least one of the following:

55. The same concerns as expressed in the Comment under Criterion A apply to Criterion B, and careful consideration should be given when a species may be highly vulnerable with regard to Bi) or Biii).


56. A decline in the number of individuals in the wild, which has been either:

i) observed as ongoing or as having occurred in the past (but with a potential to resume); or

ii) inferred or projected on the basis of any of the following:

-a decrease in area or quality of habitat; or

-levels or patterns of exploitation; or

-threats from extrinsic factors such as the effects of pathogens, competitors, parasites, predators, hybridization, introduced species and the effects of toxins and pollutants; or

-decreasing reproductive potential."


57. In comparing the IUCN and CITES criteria, it was apparent that there could be value to an additional CITES criterion, based on appropriate quantitative analysis of the population trajectory of the exploited species. Details of such a criterion would require careful development, in view of the diversity of modeling approaches used to describe fish population dynamics. However a criterion of the nature that:

would have several benefits. It would provide a clear incentive for management authorities to take effective action to stem over-harvesting before a species was reduced to a population size with an unacceptably high risk of extinction. It would also provide an incentive to harvesting nations to comply with management actions and provide data, in order to ensure there was evidence that the decline had ceased, and consequently be allowed continued opportunity for trade in the species. Finally, it would allow rapid re-evaluation if there were indications that harvesting had accelerated to "beat the ban", ensuring more rapid listing if harvesters were irresponsible.

However, it is noted that the current provisions of Criterion D, applied to Sub-article Ai), are likely adequate to allow results of sound population models to be used as a basis for listing under Appendix II.


58. No change is proposed to criteria old D or to the trade criteria or to Annex 3.


59. A major concern is that CITES focus listing on species (referred to by CITES as populations), whereas fisheries management focuses on stocks (referred to by CITES as sub-populations). CITES aims to ensure that sufficient individuals of a species survive on Earth, or in a geographical area, whereas fisheries management aims at ensuring sustainability of all stocks. Notwithstanding CITES use of the terms population and sub-population, CITES leaves open the possibility to apply its criteria to sub-populations (or stocks) threatened with extirpation in Article 1 of the Convention.

60. Many exploited marine species have wide-spread distributions, and CITES listing of such species in one ocean or coast could have social and economic consequences for fisheries in other oceans or areas where management was effective and risk was low. Attempting to restrict trade in catch from only some sub-populations is likely to be problematic and ineffective except at the largest geographical scales, as CITES acknowledges with Appendix III listings. The difficulty in implementing other than global trade restrictions, and potential social and economic disruption where effective management is in place, underscore that trade restrictions should be considered as a conservation measure of last resort.



61. Risk of extinction is a legitimate concern with regard to conservation of species of fish and aquatic invertebrates.

62. Risk of extinction among aquatic species is more related to life-history and ecological traits than to taxonomic affinities, although of course taxonomically related species are often similar in life-history and ecology.

63. Tying criteria for evaluating risk of extinction too rigidly to taxonomic or to life-history traits runs the risk of compromising the present useful flexibility of CITES criteria, and could make matters worse rather than better.

64. Review of the literature on extinctions, extirpations and classifications of risk of fish all suggest that habitat loss and degradation has been a much greater threat to survival of species than commercial harvesting, particularly for freshwater and coastal zone species. Notwithstanding, harvesting has been a major factor leading to dramatic decrease and extinctions of some cetaceans, pinnipeds and seabirds, including harvesting by small-scale fisheries on resources used for local consumption.


65. CITES is most appropriate for protection of aquatic species which are of high economic value (value), vulnerable to over-exploitation due to life-history characteristics or ease of capture (vulnerability), and taken in fisheries where is it difficult to ensure compliance with management plans (violability).

66. CITES should be viewed as a conservation tool of last resort, and conservation would usually be better served by strengthening capacity for fisheries and ecosystem management. In particular, effective fisheries and ecosystem management practice allows appropriate conservation actions to be taken long before a species is at risk of extinction.

67. Species which are low in any of value, vulnerability, or violability are unlikely to require, or in other cases to benefit substantially from, listing under CITES.

68. Particularly when they are estimated from good biological and fisheries data, biological reference points used as targets and limits in fisheries management are much higher than minimum safe population sizes likely to be estimated with population viability analysis.


69. The current flexibility of CITES criteria, when interpreted with their guidelines and definitions, are an important and positive feature. With the single major modification proposed for the use of Criterion C, the current criteria and guidelines have sufficient flexibility to allow a reasoned approach to individual proposals for listing, as long as the evaluation process is conducted in a scientifically sound and transparent way and takes into account the unique characteristics of each case.

70. Because of the social, economic and human nutrition importance of commercial fisheries, listing of harvested marine species which in reality are false alarms can have very serious consequences.

71. The guidelines for Criteria A and B should be interpreted generously with regard to the sizes of sub-populations and area of distribution necessary to ensure a low risk of extinction.

72. Use of Criterion C, the decline criterion, alone, could lead to many false alarms, erroneously justifying the listing of many species at negligible risk of extinction.

73. Criterion C should be used as a basis for listing an exploited marine or freshwater species only if data are insufficient to allow evaluation of that species with regard to Criteria A and B. However, when Criteria A or B are used to exempt a species which qualifies for listing on the basis of Criterion C, the guidelines on numbers and/or area should be interpreted generously, so there is reasonable confidence that the population is neither small in numbers nor restricted in distribution.


74. Fisheries management is intended to ensure sustainability at the scale of individual stocks, whereas CITES is generally intended to act only to protect species. Very large implementation problems would be encountered if attempts were made to apply CITES action at the stock level. CITES guidelines on split-listings acknowledge these problems.

75. Because many fish products are landed in processed form, the "look-alike" provision should be used with sufficient circumspection to avoid chaos in commercial fisheries.



Key Features of Definitions, Notes and Guidelines

76. The definitions below are summarized from those provided under Annex 5 of COP 9.24 and are provided here only for ease of reference. They are intended to reflect the CITES definitions and not to change the original meaning in any way. In cases of doubt or lack of clarity, the original, full definitions provided in Annex 5 must be referred to and given priority.

Area of distribution

77. Area of distribution is defined as the area contained within the shortest continuous boundary which encompasses all the known, inferred or projected sites of occurrence, and excluding significant areas where the species does not occur. A figure of less than 10 000 km2 has been found to be an appropriate guideline (not a threshold) for a restricted area of distribution in some species.


78. A decline is a reduction in the number of individuals, or a decrease of the area of distribution, the causes of which are either not known or not adequately controlled. Natural fluctuations will not normally count as part of a decline, but an observed decline should not be considered part of a natural fluctuation unless there is evidence for this. A decline that is the result of a harvesting programme that reduces the population to a planned level, not detrimental to the survival of the species, is not covered by the term "decline". A decrease of 50 percent or more within 5 years or two generations whichever is the longer, has been found to be an appropriate guideline (not a threshold) of what constitutes a decline. A decline in a small wild population could be 20 percent or more within ten years or three generations whichever is longer.

Extended period

79. The meaning of the term extended period will vary according to the biological characteristics of the species.


80. Fragmentation refers to the case where most individuals within a taxon are found in small and relatively isolated sub-populations where opportunities for re-establishment are limited. An area of distribution of 500 km2 or less for each sub-population has been found to be an appropriate guideline (not a threshold) of what constitutes fragmentation.


81. Generation is measured as the average age of parents in the population.

Large fluctuations

82. Large fluctuations occur in a number of species where the population size or area of distribution varies widely, rapidly and frequently, with a variation greater than one order of magnitude.


83. Population is measured as the total number of individuals of the species (as defined in Article I of the Convention). A figure of less than 5 000 individuals has been found to be an appropriate guideline (not a threshold) of what constitutes a small wild population.

Possibly extinct

84. A species is presumed extinct when exhaustive surveys in known and/or suspected habitat, have failed to record an individual


85. Sub-populations are defined as geographically or otherwise distinct groups in the population between which there is little exchange. A figure of less than 500 individuals has been found to be an appropriate guideline (not a threshold) of what constitutes a very small sub-population.

Threatened with extinction

86. The vulnerability of a species to threats of extinction depends on numerous characteristics of its biology and habitats. This makes it impossible to give numerical values for population size or area of distribution that are applicable to all taxa.

1 For the full review, see "FAO. 2000. An appraisal of the suitability of the CITES criteria for listing commercially-exploited aquatic species. Fisheries Circular 954. FAO, Rome. 66pp".

2 where x and y would be relevant to the species of concern, and assure a desired degree of risk aversion. Determining how to estimate appropriate values for x and y is one of the tasks which must be explored thoroughly before such a criterion is adopted.