With 175 Parties, CITES is one of the world's most powerful tools for biodiversity conservation. IUCN was instrumental in creating the convention and continues to provide technical and scientific advice on species of concern. A strong IUCN delegation is attending this year’s meeting, helping the Parties to make scientifically-based and well-informed decisions. We’ll be reporting on the action as it happens via daily blogs from our experts, news stories and statements.

Thousands of species of plants and animals are used for food, housing, health care, cosmetics or fashion. The international wildlife trade is estimated to be worth billions of dollars annually and to involve more than 350 million plant and animal specimens every year. Unregulated international trade can push threatened species over the brink, especially when added to habitat loss and other pressures such as climate change. The future of species that are threatened by this burgeoning trade will be discussed by Parties to the Convention who will gather in Doha, Qatar for their 15th conference.

CITES offers varying degrees of protection to more than 33,000 species of animals and plants in trade, through a system of permits and certificates. Species are included in one of three lists, called Appendices. For every CITES Conference, IUCN together with TRAFFIC, the wildlife trade monitoring network, prepares the Analyses of the Proposals to Amend the Appendices. These are objective assessments of whether the proposals to change the listing of species meet the necessary trade and biological criteria.

The Convention is increasingly focusing on commercially-important species including fish and trees valuable for timber. Many of the proposals on the agenda reflect growing international concern about the accelerating destruction of the world’s marine and forest ecosystems through over-fishing and excessive logging. With 2010 as the International Year of Biodiversity, the CITES Conference is one of the key occasions governments have this year to take action to stop biodiversity loss.

There will be much debate at this conference about how to manage and conserve species that are traded internationally and how to regulate this trade. Marine species such as sharks, tuna and coral will be under the spotlight as well as Asian wild cats, particularly the tiger, Great Apes, elephants, rhinoceroses, antelope and crocodile species, among many others.