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Tighter rules on international trade in endangered species – stronger protection for elephants and endangered marine species

Ministry of the Environment
Publication date 28.8.2019 7.39
Press release

The Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) ended today on 28 August, after taking significant steps towards protecting nature and species. The European Union made a successful contribution to improving the protection for elephants, endangered reptiles and marine species.

Based on proposals supported by the EU, the conference decided to include mako sharks, four endangered species of rays and three species of teatfishes as species protected by international trade regulations. This is a significant step forward, as it allows measures against overfishing, which threatens the species with extinction.

A number of other species, including giraffes, were added to the list of protected species. Moreover, regulations on the protection of a number of turtles and tortoises were tightened.

Stronger protection for elephants

Progress was made in the protection of elephants, as the conference decided to ban the sending of African elephants captured from the wild to zoos located outside their natural habitat.

The original proposal was a subject of heated debate, as it contained some items that met with strong opposition. It would have imposed a total ban on the transfer of elephants already in zoos to other facilities, and in the worst case elephants would have to be put down if a zoo ended its operations.

In the end the EU, together with the authors of the original proposal, drafted an amended text, which was adopted by a clear majority.

“The EU wants to promote the protection of elephants with all possible means. We are pleased with this decision that strengthens the protection of elephants, takes special situations into consideration and allows for control by CITES authorities,” said Environment Counsellor Esko Hyvärinen.

The conference discussed restrictions to domestic ivory markets and decided that the parties report on the status of domestic ivory markets in their territories by the next session of the Standing Committee of CITES.

The conference also discussed the vision for CITES and defined as a new target that all international trade in animals and plants be legal and sustainable by 2030.

The conference took place in Geneva on 17–28 August 2019. Finland, as the country holding the Presidency of the Council of the European Union, coordinated the work of the EU and its Member States in the conference.


The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) aims to protect wild plants and animals by controlling international trade in them. More than 35,000 wild plants and animals are protected by CITES either because they are endangered or because they could become endangered as a result of international trade. CITES subjects international trade in selected species to certain controls and restrictions, and all import, export and sale are has to be authorised through a licensing system.

CITES entered into force in 1975, and it is signed by 183 countries. The EU has implemented CITES through the EU Wildlife Trade Regulations.


Esko Hyvärinen, Environment Counsellor, Ministry of the Environment, [email protected], tel. +358 295 250 094

Marja Pylvänäinen, Senior Adviser, Finnish Environment Institute, [email protected], tel. +358 295 251 529

Krista Mikkonen