John Dawes is an international ornamental aquatic industry
consultant. He has written and/or edited more than 50 books
and has contributed more than 4,000 articles to hobby, trade
and academic publications. He is the editor of the OFI Journal
and a consultant to AquaRealm, the new trade show scheduled
for June 2017 in Singapore.
CITES: AN OVERVIEW
CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) is an international agreement between governments. Its aim is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild
animals and plants does not threaten their survival.
At the core are three Appendices:
Appendix I lists species that are the most endangered among CITES-listed animals and plants. They are
threatened with extinction and international trade in specimens of these species is prohibited, except
when the purpose of the import is not commercial, e.g. for scientific research. The Convention, however,
provides for a number of trade exemptions to this general prohibition.
Appendix II lists species that are not necessarily threatened with extinction, but that may become so
unless trade is closely controlled. It also includes so-called “look-alike species,” i.e. species whose specimens in trade look like those of species listed for conservation reasons. International trade in specimens
of Appendix-II species may be authorized by the granting of relevant permits.
Appendix III is a list of species included at the request of a party (CITES member country) that already
regulates trade in the species and that needs the cooperation of other countries to prevent unsustainable or illegal exploitation. International trade in specimens of species listed in this appendix is allowed
on presentation of the appropriate permits or certificates.
BY JOHN DAWES
The situation regarding the importation of corals into the European Union has always been a some- what confused one. Individual species have been
discussed and added to the number of prohibited or suspended species following meetings of the Convention
on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild
Fauna and Flora (CITES) Scientific Review Group (SRG)
over the years, but a simple overview has never been
made widely and easily available. A list exists, but you
need to know where to look for it—not an easy matter
where EU documentation is concerned.
Yet this list is vitally important, both for exporting
and EU importing countries. In particular, both exporters and importers need to know what species they
can, or cannot, trade in. It is possible that this lack of
detailed, accessible knowledge is at the root of a fair
number of the seizures of consignments that have been
made by EU authorities. Between 2007 and 2008, there
were, for instance, four prosecutions in the U.K. alone
related to coral seizures; between 2009 and 2010, the
figure was 21; between 2011 and 2012, it was four; and
for the period from 2013 to 2014 (the most recent one
for which we have data), it was 18. The figures are inconsistent, but they don’t offer any sign that the situation is improving.
It is quite possible that companies might have attempted to export or import certain species without
knowing exactly what the status of the species was.
However, one can also argue that it is the responsibility of both exporters and importers to find out which
species can be legally traded. This is undeniable, but,
as long as the possibility for ambiguity exists, we are
likely to remain stumbling in a less-than-satisfactory
state of affairs that impedes the smooth flow of international trade.
The matter is not helped by the fact that some of the
suspensions are straightforward ones (in the sense that
they are listed as suspensions), while others are listed as
being based on so-called negative opinions arrived at by
the SRG. Then, to add a further element of confusion, suspensions may apply to imports of all types of specimens
belonging to some species (wild caught), while, in other
cases, the suspensions apply only to wild-caught specimens but not to maricultured ones, or to live or maricultured specimens attached to artificial substrates, or just
to live specimens but not (by implication) dead ones, for
example, coral skeletons.
As I mentioned earlier, the information exists—it’s
just a question of tracking it down. For example, most
of the suspensions are based on Suspension Regulation
No. 2015/736. However, in those instances where they are
the result of SRG recommendations, one needs to consult
the reports of the respective meetings of this group—for
example, SRG17 in the case of the genus Euphyllia, SRG72
in the case of E. cristata, and so on.
I have always felt that this situation is less than helpful
to any party in the coral supply chain, or to the authorities
who have to police it. How does a border official distinguish between, say, Blastomussa merleti and B. wells?
As we await the seizure figures for the period between
2014 and 2016, as well as any new list of suspensions that
might be being compiled, here is the full list of corals
currently affected in an easy-to-manage, understandable
format. This is not a list that I have put together, but the
official one that already exists within the labyrinth of EU
The full text—Commission Implementing Regulation
2015/736 of 7 May 2015 prohibiting the introduction into
the union of specimens of certain species of wild fauna
and flora—may be accessed at EUR-Lex , an official website of European Union law and other public documents
of the European Union.
Clearing the Muddy Waters
of Coral Suspensions