The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is an international agreement between participating countries that regulates the trade and transportation of certain species, and prevents movement without permits. The goal of CITES is to prevent the exploitation of wild species via trade since the demand for a particular animal or plant product in one place can harm the population of the species in another region. CITES-listed species are entirely protected, strictly regulated, or regionally controlled in regards to trade and transport.

In order to import or export a species that falls under these restrictions, individuals must apply for a CITES permit through the Nature Foundation and check local regulations in the country of departure and the country of arrival. It is illegal to transport CITES species without proper documentation and doing so carries criminal consequences.

St. Maarten is a member (“Party”) of CITES through the Kingdom of the Netherlands. St. Maarten also locally protects species under Appendix I. While many species under Appendix II are not covered by local legislation, international CITES legislation still protects them. CITES applies to over 100 species found around St. Maarten.

How do I apply for a CITES permit?

To apply for a CITES permit, you must submit a request and paperwork to the Nature Foundation at The Nature Foundation is the scientific and management authority for the ecosystems of St. Maarten and handles CITES permits. You must include the following in your email:

  1. The species, including its Latin name
  2. The amount (weight) or quantity (numbers) of the species
  3. An exporter and importer address
  4. The purpose of the transaction
  5. If alive, how the live species will be transported
  6. If a re-export, include the previous import/export permits
  7. If importing, include the export permits

Please reach out to the Nature Foundation manager with any questions.

What does it mean for a species to be CITES-listed?

A species that is protected under CITES cannot be transported across national borders without proper documentation and certification, no matter where you are or whether it is dead or alive. This includes its body parts, such as shells or feathers.

What are some CITES-listed species found in or around St. Maarten?

These are some of the most commonly found species protected by CITES. This is not a comprehensive list and does not reflect the totality of CITES-listed species around St. Maarten.

  • All coral species
  • All marine mammals
  • All sea turtle species
  • All cacti species
  • Green iguana (Iguana iguana)
  • Manta ray (Manta birostris)
  • Great hammerhead shark (Sphyrna mokarran)
  • Shortfin mako shark (Isurus oxyrinchus)
  • Whale shark (Rhincodon typus)
  • Queen conch (Strombus gigas)
  • Green-throated Carib (Eulampis holosericeu)
  • Antillean crested hummingbird (Orthohyncus cristatus)
  • Osprey (Pandion haliaetus)
  • Lignum vitae, or Gaïac (Guaiacum officinale)
What are the different CITES Appendixes and what do they mean?

Appendix I affords the highest level of protection and covers endangered species since they are at risk of extinction. Trade is prohibited for all but the most extenuating of non-commercial circumstances, such as scientific research. Importation and exportation require extensive review and permits. Appendix I protects 1,082 species globally. In St. Maarten, Appendix I protects over a dozen sea turtles and whale species.

Appendix II lists species at risk of becoming endangered if governments do not proactively control the trade. Trade is regulated. Exportations are allowed with a permit or certificate after inspection and review, and an import permit is not mandatory. It also regulates the exchange of “look-alike species” to protect the threatened species they resemble. Appendix II covers 37,420 species globally. In St. Maarten, Appendix II protects 89 species of coral, sharks, and cetaceans.

Appendix III applies to species that may be at risk locally in a particular country. In this case, a country asks CITES for assistance in protecting the international trade of a species. Other Parties cooperate with Appendix III and regulate their trade according to the agreed-upon controls. Trade is allowed but monitored. Appendix III covers 211 species globally. In St. Maarten, no species are listed under Appendix III.

How does CITES work? What is its purpose?

CITES is managed by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and was passed in 1975. With 183 Parties to date, CITES protects over 5,950 animal species and 32,800 plant species globally.

CITES attempts to address exploitation via the international wildlife trade, which is hugely lucrative for both dead and live organisms. The United Nations estimates that the illegal trade is worth between $7 billion and $23 billion a year. While the wildlife trade is devastating for ecosystems and species, it also harms local economies, societal stability, and human health.