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News article28 November 2022Directorate-General for Environment

Wildlife trade regime: EU helps achieve stricter trade regulations for species threatened by international trade at CITES COP19

At the world wildlife conference CITES COP19 that took place in Panama from 14 to 25 November, the EU helped achieve key outcomes that will bring sustainable trade in more than 500 newly listed species. This is crucial for tackling the alarming biodiversity loss which threatens our health, food security and livelihoods. CITES signatories adopted a wide range of decisions to strengthen and expand the global wildlife trade regime, including the historic safeguards to sharks, singing birds, reptiles, amphibians and tree species. 

A total of 46 proposals for amending the Convention’s appendices, which list the species subject to trade restrictions, were adopted. Of these, 13 have been submitted by the EU as the main proponent or as co-proponent: on marine species, reptiles, amphibians and tropical trees.

Commissioner for Environment, Ocean and Fisheries Virginijus Sinkevičius said:

70% of the world’s poor depend on wild species. And yet, around 1 million animal and plant species are now threatened with extinction. Over-exploitation of species through international trade is one of the drivers of this global nature loss. Just weeks ahead of the historic Biodiversity COP15 in Montreal, it’s very encouraging to see the global community stepping up to protect some of the world’s most threatened plants and animals.

The CoP19 adopted the EU’s proposal to establish a dialogue among range states to facilitate the harmonisation of the conditions for trade in live elephants and ensure it supports conservation, transparency and scientific oversight. The EU supported the range states that requested that while the dialogue lasts, trade in live elephants will only be possible in situations, in which it contributes to conservation objectives within Africa. Only in exceptional circumstances transfer to non-range states would be possible with full transparency and scientific scrutiny.

With the adoption of the marine species proposals, co-sponsored by the EU, additional species of sharks and sea cucumbers will benefit from increased protection against unsustainable international trade.  

The EU, as a big importer of tropical timber, has also proposed listing a number of tree species, adopted by the CoP and supported by many range States.

The CoP also adopted EU proposals on reptiles and amphibians, many of which are in demand as pets in the EU. In line with its recently revised action plan against illegal wildlife trade, the EU has also supported decisions aiming at strengthening the enforcement and compliance with CITES provisions, including providing capacity building and strengthening action against wildlife crime linked to the internet. The EU has also advocated for increased cooperation between CITES and other relevant organisations on reducing risk of future zoonotic diseases associated with international wildlife trade.

The EU advocated also for a better recognition of CITES role in conservation of forests and cooperation with other relevant organisations.     


The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora’s (CITES) oversees the trade in a number of species considered at risk of extinction, with the aim to make international trade in wildlife sustainable and to counter illegal trade. It is a ‘convention with teeth’ because it allows for strong compliance measures, including trade suspensions. In response to growing challenges, at COP19 governments made decisions that will determine the fate of hundreds of species. Because of its 27-bloc-strong vote, the EU plays a crucial role in voting for proposals governments put forward for consideration.

Illegal wildlife trade is a driver of biodiversity loss, can vastly weaken wild populations of flora and fauna, and in some cases drive them to extinction. Wildlife trafficking also has destructive socio-economic consequences as the destruction of ecosystems which can result from poaching and trafficking often deprives local communities of legal and sustainable forms of income. As the Covid-19 pandemic has recently highlighted, unmanaged wildlife trade can be a source of the spread of zoonotic diseases, with potentially devastating results for public health.

On 9 November 2022 the Commission adopted a revised EU Action Plan against Wildlife Trafficking, as announced in the Biodiversity Strategy for 2030. The updated plan will guide new EU actions against wildlife trafficking until 2027, building on the first Action Plan adopted six years ago.


Publication date
28 November 2022
Directorate-General for Environment

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