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CITES was specifically designed to protect species threatened with extinction by international trade. A set of criteria and guidelines were developed by CITES to assist the evaluation of whether or not a species should be listed. These criteria provided very broad directions to be taken into account in the evaluation of proposals for listing any species of animal or plant. Analysing the appropriateness of the existing CITES listing criteria and guidelines for resources exploited by fisheries in marine and large freshwater bodies, FAO concluded that several important improvements could be made and that, in particular, quantitative guidelines could and should be developed.

FAO formulated recommendations on the CITES listing criteria and process for evaluation of proposals at the Second Technical Consultation on the Suitability of the CITES Criteria for Listing Commercially-exploited Aquatic Species (Report of the second Technical Consultation on the Suitability of the CITES Criteria for Listing Commercially-exploited Aquatic Species), held in Windhoek, Namibia, from 22 to 25 October 2001.
These were endorsed by theCOFI - Report of the eighth session of the Sub-Committee on Fish Trade. Bremen, Germany, 12 16 February 2002 and submitted to CITES for their consideration. No final agreement was reached by CITES on amendment to the listing criteria of CITES Resolution Conf. 9.24 at the 12th Conference of the Parties (Santiago, Chile, November 2002). After further discussion within CITES, in which FAO participated, CoP13 adopted by consensus revised listing criteria (CITES Res. Conf. 9.24 (Rev. CoP13)) that included the key recommendations from FAO related to commercially-exploited aquatic species. The Resolution was further revised at CoP14 and is now Resolution Conf. 9.24 (Rev. CoP14). However the Annexes of the Resolution containing the guidelines for the interpretation of the listing criteria were not amended and remain the same as adopted at CoP13.

Also, in response to a request by the 15th Conference of the Parties to assist CITES in the process of clarifying the interpretation of criteria for listing commercially-exploited aquatic species, FAO convened in 2011 the “Workshop to review the application of CITES criterion Annex 2 a B to commercially-exploited aquatic species”. The conclusion of the workshop confirmed the view expressed by FAO in the CoP14 that the same definitions, explanations and guidelines in Annex 5 of the Res. Conf. 9.24 (Rev. CoP16), including the decline criteria, apply both for Criterion A and for Criterion B of Annex 2 a (see Applying criteria).

 
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