What is CITES?

Vanuatu became a signatory to the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES) concerning the protection of Wild Fauna and Flora in 1989. Signatory countries prohibit trade in an agreed list of endangered species and regulate and monitor trade in species that may become endangered.

CITES signatories requires that governments issues permits for traffic in these species. In addition, countries may enforce even stricter control than required by the convention if they wish to give special protection to a particular species.

The Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC) is the sole agency responsible for the issual of CITES permits by the Vanuatu Government. Permits can only be issued from the Department's Port Vila Office. 2 working days are required to process permit applications.

A service fee applies to the issue of all permits. A surcharge may be placed on any permit required in less than 2 working days. CITES provisions apply to both live and dead specimens, or parts and derivatives of listed species.

To enforce CITES, the DEC has been working closely with other government departments such as Customs, Police, Fisheries, Forestry and Agriculture, to regulate or control trading of endangered (including threatened and endemic) species of fauna and flora that have been listed under CITES appendices below.

What Species Have Their Trade Restricted by CITES?

The most endangered species are listed in Appendix I of the Convention. No permits are issued for trade in these species. Where wildlife or wildlife products are allowed to be trafficked for specific purposes such as scientific research or captive breeding the recipient country must firstly issue an import permit BEFORE the Vanuatu Government will issue an export permit.

Conversely if specimens are to be brought to Vanuatu an import permit must be issued by the Vanuatu Government BEFORE the source country issues an export permit. Species or their products brought into Vanuatu without due permit will be confiscated. Other species at risk are included in Appendix II of the Convention.

International trade in Appendix III species is allowed at the discretion of the government of the exporting country, but only with a government permit. CITES provisions apply to a number of species, and products made from these species, that are available for purchase by visitors to Vanuatu.

This includes the tree ferns that are used by Ambrym islanders to carve statues; some shells; and all corals and turtles. Countries such as Australia and New Zealand are strict in enforcing CITES restrictions. Visitors are encouraged to obtain permits prior to leaving Vanuatu. CITES provisions apply to certain species in Vanuatu based on 3 Appendices:

APPENDIX I - Species in this list cannot be traded, they are:

  • The four species of Flying Fox and Fruit Bat present in Vanuatu.
  • The Peregrine Falcon.
  • All species of Sea Turtle.
  • Saltwater Crocodiles.
  • Fire corals.

APPENDIX II - Species in this list can be exported by permit only, they are:

  • Marine mammals, including dugong, whales and dolphins.
  • A number of bird species including Pigeons and Fruit Doves, the Rainbow and Green Palm Lorikeets, Megapodes, Parrot-Finches and common Birds of Prey.
  • Snakes and Lizards.
  • Giant Clam shells (Tridacna sp. and Hippopus sp.).
  • All coral species of the Coenothecalia, Stolonifera, Antipatharia and Scleratinia families.
  • All species of tree fern.
  • All species of orchids.
  • All species of palms.
  • All species of Cordyline (Nagaria).

Appendix III - Trade in these species is only permitted with an appropriate export permit and a certificate of origin, they are:

  • Charonia tritonis (Conch Shell or Bubu Shell).
  • Nautilus pompilius (Nautilus shell).
  • Cypraea species (Cowrie Shells).