Promoting sustainable trade as a safety net for marine wildlife

25 November 2022

UNCTAD and its partners promote trade in line with environmental, social and economic sustainability criteria as a nature-based solution to the biodiversity crisis.

A woman repairs a fishing net
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Global legal trade in wildlife is estimated to generate $220 billion a year in revenue, according to the World Wildlife Trade Report recently released by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

UNCTAD contributed to the report that gives insights and analysis into the global trade in animals and plants regulated under the CITES treaty.

CITES regulates global trade in nearly 40,000 plant and animal species to ensure their survival.

“The commercial trade of wildlife while conserving species and ecosystems contributes to improving the livelihoods of local communities,” UNCTAD Secretary-General Rebeca Grynspan said.

“It is therefore important to ensure that international trade in CITES-listed species is sustainable, legal and traceable,” she added.

Prominence of fisheries and aquaculture trade

The report estimates that between 2016 and 2020, the global export value of CITES-listed animal species was at least $1.8 billion a year.

Fish accounted for one third of that value while two species and their by-products – sturgeon caviar and crocodile skins – dominated trade in wildlife commodities.

The link between CITES and legal regimes in fisheries is now more crucial than ever, participants said at a side event organized by the CITES Secretariat, UNCTAD, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization and the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) on 18 November during this year’s World Wildlife Conference in Panama.

They said partnerships and capacity-building efforts for trade management are critical to promoting sustainable trade in CITES-regulated marine species.

Blue BioTrade promotes sustainable livelihoods and conservation

An example of such efforts is a joint UNCTAD-OECS-CITES Blue BioTrade project. It uses a bottom-up approach to support sustainable trade in CITES-listed species by implementing UNCTAD’s BioTrade Principles and Criteria.

These are a set of practical guidelines for governments and companies to conduct biodiversity-friendly trade and are strongly interlinked to CITES’s approach to conserve species and reduce poverty through sustainable trade.

“These guidelines can help the 150 of 195 UNCTAD member states surrounded by coasts to provide a safety net to thousands of CITES-protected marine species,” said David Vivas, an UNCTAD legal officer working on ocean economy issues.

The project is helping small-scale fishers in the Eastern Caribbean benefit from exports of species such as queen conch, an iconic sea mollusc or shellfish, by supporting countries in the region to overcome trade restrictions.

Queen conch is a highly appreciated seafood delicacy with important non-food uses, including therapeutic products, jewellery and handicrafts. The Caribbean exports 70% of the species.

From 2017 to 2019, queen conch was one of the top wild-sourced species traded by weight, accounting for 18% of global trade, with an estimated value of $74 million.