More than 200 Species Need Protection from International Commercial Trade, NRDC and Partners Tell Biden Administration

WASHINGTON – NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council), together with the Center for Biological Diversity and Defenders of Wildlife, have asked the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) to seek a ban on commercial trade for more than 200 species of animals and plants that are threatened with extinction, including reindeer, turtles, sea otters, tarantulas, aquarium fish, sharks, frogs, orchids, trees and over 50 coral species. 

The groups are asking FWS to propose adding these species to Appendix I at next year’s Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) Conference of Parties (Cop20). The move would ban the international trade of these species for commercial purposes. 

Citing the biodiversity and climate crises as well as destructive practices—from overfishing and hunting to deforestation to human exploitation of wildlife and plants—the groups asked FWS to ensure that all United States. species and all U.S. imported species that meet the CITES criteria are proposed for listing on Appendix I. They also recognized U.S. action at CoP19, but called, with urgency, for further action: 

“In this moment of human history, to do anything less than aggressively using the tools available and pushing the limits of those tools to counter the biodiversity and climate crises is to be complicit in the suffering of hundreds of millions of people and the extinction of thousands of species,” the groups wrote. 

Among the species cited are: 

  • More than 75 threatened species for which the U.S. is a range state and where international trade is contributing to their decline. These include corals, fish, sharks, turtles, reindeer, sea otter polar bear and a few flowering plants; 
  • More than 115 threatened species for which the U.S. is an importer and where international trade is contributing to their decline. These include fish, tortoise, frogs, tarantula, eagle, turtles, coral, deer, seahorse, cobra, python, lizards, aquarium fish, and gazelle; 
  • Six threatened species of trees, such as the American Elm, for which the U.S. is a range state but where international trade is not assessed but are in trade as wood pellets. 

According to the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), “the global rate of species extinction is accelerating and has already reached a rate at least tens to hundreds of times higher than the average rate over the past 10 million years,” the letter says. “One out of every four species across a wide range of animal and plant taxonomic groups is threatened with extinction. Several regional and national assessments show that more than 40% of insect pollinators are threatened at a national scale.” 

“The biodiversity crisis presents a grave threat, not only to the threatened species, but to human life. We must forge a new relationship with nature to achieve the transformative change necessary to secure life as we know it for future generations,” said Zak Smith, senior attorney and director of global biodiversity conservation at NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council). “The United States should be leading this charge globally, by ensuring that its own threatened species are protected from destructive for-profit international trade and halting the import of species that are threatened with extinction.”  

“With hundreds of species around the globe being exploited to oblivion, we need global momentum at CITES to protect all imperiled wildlife that may be harmed by trade,” said Tanya Sanerib, international legal director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “The United States plays an outsized role in vacuuming up wildlife for décor, pets, fashion, hunting trophies and more, so U.S. delegates have a special responsibility to lead the fight against the wildlife trade’s devastating threat to our planet’s web of life. For 50 years, CITES has been a lifeline to threatened animals and plants by combating over-exploitation, but today’s unprecedented biodiversity crisis requires truly bold action.” 

“It is the responsibility of all countries to reduce the overexploitation of wildlife as part of their efforts to halt and reverse biodiversity loss. While the U.S. has made great strides in this area, it can and must listen to the science and increase its promotion of ambitious action in international fora,” said Alejandra Goyenechea, senior international counsel for Defenders of Wildlife. “Wild species are going extinct every day and cannot continue to wait. That's why today we are calling on the U.S. to take bolder action than ever before to protect wildlife at CITES CoP20.”   

“There is no way to credibly downplay the dangers to wildlife or humanity from the ongoing loss of biological diversity and the climate crisis,” the groups wrote in their letter. “For wildlife, a million species are threatened with extinction, many within decades. For humans, these crises separately and together jeopardize the natural life support systems we depend on for our health, food security, and quality of life.” 

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NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) is an international nonprofit environmental organization with more than 3 million members and online activists. Established in 1970, NRDC uses science, policy, law and people power to confront the climate crisis, protect public health and safeguard nature. NRDC has offices in New York City, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, Beijing and Delhi (an office of NRDC India Pvt. Ltd). 

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