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Solutions today for reefs tomorrow



Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) Permits

What is CITES?

CITES is an international agreement between 166 governments that regulates the trade and exchange of biological specimens to ensure that sample collection and demand does not threaten the species survival in the wild.

CITES logo

CITES protects over 35,000 species of plants and animals and assigns them one of three levels of protection:

Appendix I: No commercial trade is allowed. This designation includes species that are threatened with extinction.

Appendix II: Trade is allowed but requires a CITES export permit. This includes species that are not currently at risk of extinction, but which require protection to ensure that their trade does not affect their survival in the wild.

Appendix III: This includes species that are “protected in at least one country which has asked other CITES Parties for assistance in controlling the trade.”

Coral Specimens under CITES

All stony corals are considered Appendix II species, so trade is allowed with appropriate permits and documentation. Permits are required for the following coral samples:

  • Live corals (whole colonies and fragments with recognizable corallites)
  • Coral skeletons
  • Eggs, sperm, planula larvae
  • Live rock
  • Reef substrate and eroded skeletal fragments greater than 3 cm in diameter
  • Any coral sample less than 3 cm if the corallites are discernable and adequate for identification to the genus level

Shipping Internationally INTO the US

Exporting Country:

CITES export permits issued by the Management Authority in the country of origin are required and must be included with any shipments.

Importing to US:

The US does not require importing permits, but the shipment must be declared using USFWS Form 3-177

All shipments must be received by one of 17 Designated Ports

Shipping Internationally OUT OF the US

Exporting from the US:

A valid export permit issued by the CITES Management Authority (US Fish and Wildlife Service, USFWS) is required and must be included with each shipment

Importing Country:

A CITES import permit is sometimes required depending on the destination country.

Shipping between US and US Territories

No CITES permits (import or export) are required for shipping between US Terriroties

US Territories: U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Guam, American Samoa, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands

Certificates of Scientific Exchange (COSE)

Scientific institutions are encouraged to register for Certificates of Scientific Exchange (COSE) in order to streamline the permitting process. COSE registration authorizes the non-commercial loan, donation, and exchange of biological specimens between any other registered institutions without the need for CITES export and import permits.

You can apply for COSE by submitting the USFWS Form 3-200-39 to the Division of Management Authority.

To Learn More...

To read more about the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora or to download official documents, visit the CITES website.