Trade in Protected Species & CITES

Trade is one activity that can lead to negative impacts on species, especially on endangered species.  A number of such species have experienced serious decline in populations due to demand either for the specimens themselves, or for parts or derivatives therefrom. 

Trade-related impacts on species are addressed on an international basis by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. Known as CITES, this Convention aims at ensuring that international trade does not threaten wild plant and animal species. It does this by subjecting trade to controls on import, export and re-export of species by applying compliance controls and certifications.  Differences apply whether goods are being moved within the European Union, where there is freedom of trade and hence lesser controls, or whether there is trade to or from outside the European Union.

The vulnerability of the species concerned, and the demand levels for the said species all contribute to different classifications and levels of protection by CITES and ensuing legislation.  There are three different Appendices in the United Nations' Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), and four Annexes in the European Union's Regulation on the Protection of Species of Wild Fauna and Flora by Regulating Trade Therein (EU Regolament / Regulation), and different species are listed in the said Appendices and Annexes depending on the extent of how threatened the species are and the extent of trade activities targeting them. These legal documents are transposed into Maltese law (SL549.38​).

Many people are quite mistaken in thinking that CITES only concerns exotic animals such as tigers or bears, or parts from such animals like elephant tusks and rhino horns, and that members of the general public are not really affected by its implications.  In reality, many commonplace goods and transactions involve CITES species or derivatives.   Many species of pets, such as tortoises and parrots, are CITES-listed, and so are many birds of prey.  Food delicacies such as caviar (eggs of sturgeon), certain high quality timber used in furniture or musical instruments, such as rosewoods and certain mahoganies, the leather derived from certain animal species such as that of alligators, many cacti species, and various plant extracts used in the manufacture of cosmetics, health supplements and diet pills, are CITES-listed and require compliance checks and pre-authorizations especially when imported from outside of the EU.  Sale of Annex A species within the European Union, including therefore within Malta itself, also requires certification.  Maltese law stipulates that the owners of CITES-listed species must always keep the relevant CITES documentation available.  Hence anybody acquiring such specimens from third parties are obliged by law to be in possession of these documents.  Failure to do so may result in the specimen being seized and action taken against the owner.

Applying for CITES clearances

It is recommended that anybody considering bringing into Malta (including via the purchase of items over the internet) any products derived from plants or animals from outside the European Union, and any live animals or carcasses (e.g. hunted animals/birds) both from within and from outside the European Union, or is considering acquiring any live or dead animal even from Malta itself, contacts the Environmental Permitting Services  in advance to confirm whether any CITES requirements need to be complied with.  It is to be pointed out that if an item arrives at the border control without any necessary CITES certificates, it would be seized and action taken against the importer.  

In Malta, the the Environment & Resources Authority, which is the CITES Management Authority of Malta, processes more than 75 CITES compliance certifications or clearances per week for transactions covering specimens/items imported from or exported/re-exported out of the European Union.  Various traded items all require CITES compliance clearance prior to being imported (or exported).  Pet shop fish and coral, fresh-frozen fish for human consumption, cosmetics, medicinals​, clothes, timber products, etc. constitute such goods.

CITES compliance clearances

In order for the ERA to issue a compliance clearance on any item for it to be released on its importation, information is required on the materials being imported/exported, and/or ingredients contained in products.   A declaration from the supplier is to clearly state whether any plant or animal products, derivatives, or parts thereof, are included in the items being imported/exported. The declaration should clearly refer to the invoice in question or particular items in the invoice, as necessary. The declaration should cover all items on the invoice as the CITES office will release all the invoice and not specific items on the invoice. The above information is necessary for items or products being imported from a non-EU country, even if the products were originally produced within an EU country. 

In the case of exports, the information above is necessary for items or products being exported to a non-EU country, even if the items or products originally reached Malta from an EU country.

CITES office opening hours

The CITES office is open pn Monday, Wednesday and Friday from 10.00 to 12.00pm.

For further information contact the Environmental Permitting Services  on 2292 3500, or on cites.permitting@era.org.mt.

Application Forms

Application for CITES Import / Export / Re-export Certificates

Annex to the Application form for CITES Import / Export / Re-export Certificates

Application form for Article 10 and Article 60 Certificates​

Import Notification for the Import of Annex C and Annex D species

Declaration form to cede animals in Annex B

Species Risk Assessment Form