For background to the establishment of CITES, outline of the convention, management authorities and other information, read the information below.

Background to the establishment of the convention

In 1972, at the United Nations Conference on the Human Environment held in Stockholm, the early convening of a conference for adopting a convention concerning the international trade of wild plants and animals was recommended in order to protect certain species of wild animals and plants being threatened with extinction.

In response, a Conference of Plenipotentiaries on the Adoption of a Convention on International Trade in Certain Species of Wild Animals and Plants was held in Washington, D.C., in 1973, hosted by the United States. The conference brought together people from 81 countries including the Republic of South Africa and the Republic of Costa Rica, and in March 1973, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) was adopted (the convention is also called the “Washington Act” as it was adopted at the conference held in Washington, D.C.). On April 2, 1975, it was determined that the convention met the requirements for coming into effect, and on July 1, 1975, the convention came into effect.

Japan attended the conference and signed the convention on April 30, 1975. Following coordination between stakeholders, the conclusion of the convention was approved by the 91st ordinary session of the Diet on April 25, 1980, and the convention came into effect in Japan on November 4, 1980.

Many developed and developing countries have joined in the convention, making of total of 184 countries and regions as of January 4, 2016.

Outline of the convention

Purpose and details

CITES is an international agreement between governments. Its aim is to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.
The species covered by CITES are listed in three Appendices: according to the degree of protection they need.

  Appendix Ⅰ Appendix Ⅱ Appendix Ⅲ
Listing criteria Species that are threatened with extinction.
Trade in specimens of these species is permitted only in exceptional circumstances.
Species that are not necessarily threatened with extinction, but in which trade must be controlled in order to avoid utilization incompatible with their survival Species that are protected in at least one country, which has asked other CITES Parties for assistance in controlling the trade.
Details of control
  • Trade for scientific research purposes is allowed.
  • Import and export permissions from both destination and originating countries are required.
  • Trade for commercial purposes is allowed.
  • Export permission issued by the government of an originating country is required.
  • Trade for commercial purposes is allowed.
  • Export permission or a certificate of origin issued by the government of the originating country is required.
Example of controlled species Orangutans, slow loris, gorillas, Asian arowanas, giant pandas, Saussureae radix, false gharials, sea turtles, etc. Bears, hawks, parrots, lions, pirarucu, corals, cactus, orchids, spurge, etc. Walruses (Canada), alligator snapping turtles (the United States), kolinsky (India), corals (China), etc.

Controlled species

Under the convention, the species of animals and plants listed in the Appendices are controlled, including both living and preserved animals, fur coats partially or wholly made of listed species, leather products made of listed reptiles, processed products made of listed species, e.g., ivory sculptures, but excluding urine, faeces (since January 15, 2009) and vomit (since October 15, 2009) of listed species.


A party to the convention may enter reservations with respect to the species listed in the Appendices, and the party is deemed not to be a member country with respect to that species. Currently, Japan has entered reservations concerning the following species.

A permission or confirmation by the METI Minister is additionally required for businesses that intend to import the seven species of whales, including short-finned pilot whales (Orcaella brevirostris), and worked products thereof, about which Japan has entered a reservation.

  Reservations entered by Japan
Appendix Ⅰ Sperm whales, Baird’s beaked whales, common minke whales, Antarctic minke whales, sei whales (excluding the population living in the North Pacific Ocean and those living in the area between the 70 degrees East Longitude and 0 degrees East Longitude and between the Antarctica and the Equator), Bryde's whales, Omura’s whales, fin whales and irrawaddy dolphins, Australian Snubfin Dolphins
Appendix Ⅱ Silky shark, Oceanic whitetip sharks, Blue Shark*, red hammerhead sharks, great hammerhead sharks, smooth hammerhead sharks, all species belonging to Alopias*, basking sharks, great white sharks, Shortfin mako shark*, Longfin mako shark*, porbeagle sharks, whale sharks, and all species belonging to Hippocampus
*Note: Asterisked species have been listed as of November 25, 2023.

Management and Scientific Authorities

Under the regulations of the convention, a party to the convention is required to designate Management Authorities competent to grant permits or certificates and Scientific Authorities that advise Management Authorities on the issuance of permissions from the perspective of protecting the species. Management and Scientific Authorities in Japan are as follows:

Management Authorities that issue import/export permissions and certificates

Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry Listed species, excluding those brought by ship (namely, common imports/exports)
Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Listed species only brought by ship

Scientific Authorities that advise Management Authorities on imports/exports of listed species from the perspective of their survival

Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Plants and major aquatic animals* *Note: For details of responsibilities by CITES class, click here.(PDF:136KB)(in Japanese)PDFfile
Ministry of the Environment Land animals*

Other information

When a person who has temporarily left Japan, e.g., a person who has travelled to overseas countries, enters the country and brings goods related to the CITES listed plants or animals that he/she has purchased or obtained in the overseas countries, the goods are subject to the same regulations of imports as those for regular imports of goods.

Accordingly, you cannot bring any products related to the listed species into Japan with you, regardless of whether they are overseas souvenirs or not, without completing the predetermined procedures of imports/exports in both destination and originating countries. For example, the following species were recently seized by customs because predetermined import procedures were not completed. Travelers to overseas countries and those who intend to go abroad should keep this in mind when they purchase any souvenirs overseas.

Living animals Star tortoises, slow lorises, Asian arowana, lizards, chameleons, etc.
Living plants Orchids, cactus, spurge, Hego (Cyathea spinulosa), aloe, etc.
Processed products Chinese herbal medicine (those containing musk, tiger bone, bear bile, Saussureae radix, etc.), peacock feather products, erhu (musical instrument using a skin of python), reptile leather products (crocodiles, snakes, lizards, etc.), corals, figurines of Tridacna, ivory products, crocodile jerky, etc.

Division in Charge

Office of Trade Licensing for Wild Animal and Plants, Trade Licensing Division, Trade Control Department, Trade and Economic Cooperation Bureau

Last updated:2024-04-09