Regulations amending the Wild Animal and Plant Trade Regulations: 17th Conference of the Parties

These changes update the rules for importing and exporting plants and animals that are at risk. This is a review of how these changes will affect the environment.  

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) is an international treaty, adopted on March 3, 1973 at Washington, D.C., that helps to ensure the survival of wild animals and plants by setting controls on the import and/or export of species that are, or may be, threatened due to international trade. There are currently 183 Parties to the Convention. CITES includes three Appendices, known as Appendix I, II and III. The Appendices list all species that are protected under CITES. There are currently over 35,000 species of animals and plants listed in the three Appendices. Each Appendix affords varying degrees of protection through different import and/or export controls. The Parties have agreed to a set of biological and trade criteria to help determine whether a species should be included in Appendix I or II. CITES also allows individual Parties to unilaterally list species for which they have implemented domestic controls on Appendix III.

The Parties to CITES usually meet every three years at the Conference of the Parties (CoP) to decide on amendments to be made to CITES Appendices I and II, based on species conservation status and import and/or export information. The Parties have agreed to a set of biological criteria to help determine whether a species should be included in Appendices I or II. At each regular CoP meeting, Parties submit proposals to amend CITES Appendices I and II. The amendment proposals to CITES Appendices I and II are discussed among the Parties and then adopted by consensus or a two-thirds majority vote. CoP17 was recently held in Johannesburg, South Africa, from September 24 to October 5, 2016. At CoP17, a total of 49 amendments to the CITES Appendices were adopted affecting 72 taxa in total. Depending on the amendment, taxa can refer to a family, genus, species, subspecies or population. In total, these amendments involve over 400 species or subspecies. These changes include:

Removal or reduction in trade controls
                 Description of change            Number of taxa affected

Down-listing from Appendix I to Appendix II (removal of import controls and decrease of export controls)

8 taxa (including one Canadian subspecies, Eastern cougar (Puma concolor couguar))

Deletion from Appendix II (removal of export controls)

2 taxa (including one Canadian subspecies, Wood bison (Bison bison athabascae))

New or increased trade controls
Description of change Number of taxa affected

Addition to Appendix I (new import and export controls)   

9 taxa

Up-listing from Appendix II to Appendix I (new import controls and increased export controls)

14 taxa

Addition to Appendix II (new export controls)

33 taxa (including one genus found in Canada, Thresher sharks (Alopias spp.))

Other amendments
Description of change Number of taxa affected

Modifications to the annotations

6 taxa


In addition, changes to Appendix III requested by Parties between January 2016 and November 2016 have also been taken into account. These amendments include the addition of 15 taxato Appendix III (new export controls), including 2 species listed by the United States that are also found in Canada: Spiny softshell turtle (Apalone spinifera) and Common snapping turtle (Chelydra serpentine). One taxon was also deleted from Appendix III (removal of all trade controls).

According to its usual practice of implementing Canada’s international obligations into Canadian law, Schedule I to the Wild Animal and Plant Trade Regulations (WAPTR) is being amended in order to reflect these updates that have been made to all three CITES Appendices. It should also be noted that the amendments to WAPTR Schedule I also satisfy the statutory requirement set out in subsection 21(2) of the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and International and Interprovincial Trade Act (WAPPRIITA).

The proposed amendments to Schedule I of WAPTR will lead to a harmonization of international trade controls for endangered species between Canada and other Parties to CITES. This harmonization contributes to the conservation of endangered species, both in Canada and abroad, by discouraging excessive exploitation of the listed species. Conservation of these endangered species will, in turn, benefit the overall ecosystem by increasing international biodiversity and improving the health of a wide variety of ecosystems. Given that many ecosystems act as natural carbon sinks that help to mitigate the impacts of increased carbon emissions, these amendments will also indirectly help these ecosystems to maximize their ability to adapt to climate change.

The Schedule I amendments to WAPTR are expected to have important positive environmental effects and will contribute to two of the FSDS objectives and targets, including 1) sustainably managed lands and forests, and 2) healthy wildlife populations, by regulating the international and interprovincial trade of species listed in the Appendices of the Convention. This will to contribute to the conservation of species in the wild, the protection of biodiversity and the improvement of ecosystem health, thereby maximizing the ability of natural systems to adapt to climate change. Additionally, these systems can act as natural carbon sinks that help to mitigate the impacts of climate change.

Implementation of the CoP17 amendments in Canada will, likewise, provide general benefits to the economy, business and trade. Specifically, implementation of CITES requirements through amendments to Schedule I of WAPTR benefits Canadians engaged in the international trade of endangered species because they align Canadian import and/or export practices and permitting requirements with the standards and practices of international partners, including the U.S. and the European Union. In addition, in the case of species that have been down-listed (relaxation of trade controls) or de-listed (removal of all trade controls) because they have no longer meet the listing criteria, these changes will enable authorities in Canada and other countries to focus greater attention on species that benefit from such controls and will lead to a decrease in administrative burden and potential regulatory impediments to the commercial export of certain species and their derivative products.

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