Regional workshop on CITES non-detrimental findings for marine-listed species
Friday, 19 November 2010 12:02

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) 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.

Hundreds of species from the Pacific are listed under CITES (hard corals account for most of those) and are commonly traded from over 10 countries in the region. The CITES-listed species most commonly traded from the Pacific are stony corals and giant clams. These species are exported live for the aquarium trade[1] and dead (or shells) for the curio trade, and form the basis of commercial activities that generate revenues in both rural and urban areas.


  These species are also used for traditional and cultural purposes. Other species such as tree ferns, parrots and orchids are also traded but not as widely.
Not all of Pacific Island countries are signatories to CITES. Those that aren’t still need to comply with CITES documentation, which is demanded by importing countries. For example, although Solomon Islands exports a number of CITES-listed species, it has only recently joined the convention (2007). The Federated States of Micronesia, the Republic of the Marshall Islands and the Kingdom of Tonga still are not parties. Unfortunately, even when corals or clams are produced or harvested sustainably, exports are harder to monitor from non-party countries, sometimes resulting into trade bans generated by importing countries.

Presenting non-detrimental findings (NDF) is a process that must be carried out before exporting a CITES-listed species. Essentially, NDF is a science-based risk assessment that focuses on examining the harvest, population responses, measures and risks in order to determine whether or not removal of a species from the wild is detrimental. An NDF is achieved if population trends (or indicators), despite any harvesting of a species, are increasing or stable. Any risks should be effectively mitigated and addressed. However, in the Pacific region, there often is a lack of capacity to do so. As a result, CITES decided together with the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP) and SPC, to hold a series of workshop related to CITES mechanisms used for marine species.

In August 2009, a regional workshop on managing sustainable fisheries for giant clams (Tridacnidae) and CITES capacity building was held in Fiji.[2] In May 2010, a workshop was held in Solomon Islands, training competent Pacific authorities (scientific and management authorities) on NDF. This meeting was attended by regional fisheries and environment department participants from 12 countries.[3] Resource people from the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the University of the South Pacific (USP) assisted SPREP and SPC in facilitating the workshop.  

After general CITES presentations by Robert Boljesic and specific trade presentations provided by present parties, the focus was on providing NDF training. Helen Pippard from IUCN–Fiji took a lead role in the sessions and coordinated group work related to this topic. She also gave several technical presentations and steered working groups.    

Further, a range of background and informative presentations were provided during the meeting. They can be downloaded from SPC’s aquaculture website at:

Aquarium Arts (AA) — a large live fish and coral export facility — in Honiara, Solomon Islands generously allowed workshop participants onto its premises. AA is managed by Willie Veitch. Another company (Solomon Islands Marine Exports, a coral collecting company) jointly operates from AA facilities. Willie had prepared copies of unused CITES permits and an informal group discussion ensued between him and the participants. The group also toured the facility and learned about fish and coral handling prior to export. Paul Saelea from Solomon Islands Marine Exports showed his company’s activities and some of the products it was shipping. Everyone gained knowledge and hands-on experience to what trading CITES-listed species really means.    
The giant clam and NDF workshops are important steps forward to understanding CITES-based mechanisms for exporting marine life from Pacific Island countries and territories. Approximately 350,000 pieces of live coral and giant clams are exported from the region each year.[4],[5] In addition, several tonnes of coral skeletons and clamshells are also exported for the curio trade. Live rocks are also listed under CITES and are exported in large quantities (1,000 tonnes per year on average). Understanding the trade of these species will ensure that competent scientific and management authorities in the


Pacific will improve the monitoring of the industry and ensure maximum benefits to communities and local businesses, while harvests and production are carried out sustainably.    

For further information, please contact  

Jeff Kinch, SPREP Coastal Management Advisor
This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it  


Antoine Teitelbaum, SPC Aquaculture Officer
This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

[1] “Live rocks” are also listed under CITES
[2] Kinch J. and Teitelbaum A. 2010. Proceedings of the Regional Workshop on the Management of Sustainable Fisheries for Giant Clams (Tridacnidae) and CITES Capacity Building 4–7 August 2009, Nadi, Fiji.
[4] CITES WCMC Database 2010
[5] Teitelbaum and Friedman. 2008. Resurgence of cultured giant clams from the Pacific; current status and prospects for the aquarium market. Australasian aquaculture conference, Brisbane 2008.