The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is an international agreement between governments that regulates the trade of endangered species, and prevents movement between countries 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 and 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 CITES permits in the country of export and import through the relevant CITES management authority for that country. It is illegal to transport CITES species without proper documentation and doing so carries criminal consequences.

St. Maarten is a member (“Party”) of the CITES convention through the national legislation and the nature ordinance. In addition all CITES Appendix I species native to St. Maarten are also locally protected on island. CITES applies to over 100 species found around St. Maarten as well as any other non-native species imported to the island. The Nature Foundation is the designated authority to issue CITES import and export permits for the country of St. Maarten, appointed by the minister of VROMI. 

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 and countries
  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 and export permits
  7. If importing, include copies of the export permits

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

What does it mean for a species to be protected by CITES?

A species that is protected under CITES is regulated and cannot be transported across national borders without proper documentation, permits, and certification, whether it is dead or alive. This includes its body parts or any derivatives, such as shells or feathers.

What are some local species covered by CITES?

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. A list of all CITES-protected species can be found on the CITES website.

  • All coral species
  • All cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises)
  • All sea turtle species (Cheloniidae)
  • All orchid species (Orchidaceae)
  • All cacti species
  • All Parrots
  • Queen conch (Strombus gigas)
  • Green iguana (Iguana iguana)
  • Seahorse species (Hippocampus)
  • Manta ray (Manta birostris)
  • Great hammerhead shark (Sphyrna mokarran)
  • Shortfin mako shark (Isurus oxyrinchus)
  • Whale shark (Rhincodon typus)
  • Red footed tortoise – land turtle
  • Green-throated Carib (Eulampis holosericeu)
  • Antillean crested hummingbird (Orthohyncus cristatus)
  • Osprey (Pandion haliaetus)
  • Lignum vitae (Guaiacum officinale)
  • All Boas and Pythons
  • All alligators, crocodiles and caimans
  • Some bats
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.

Why is CITES important?

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.

Who manages and takes part in CITES?

CITES international 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.