The Cayman Islands Government has commenced legislation that improves international trade in certain plants and animals.

The Endangered Species (Trade and Transport) Law 2004 was passed 11 years ago, in order to have the legislation technically in place. It was commenced on 1 July this year. By bringing it into effect, Cayman has increased its technical compliance with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES).

CITES is an international agreement for global species conservation that has been extended by the UK to Cayman. It subjects international trade in specimens of selected species to certain controls.

As there have been changes to CITES since the ESTTL was passed, further updates to the law will be required in order to ensure that Cayman is fully compliant with its provisions. Being assessed by the UK and CITES Secretariat as fully compliant will enable Cayman to avoid international trade restrictions, which may be imposed on noncompliant jurisdictions in 2016.

In its current form, the ESTTL provides greater oversight for permits, importations, and other activities related to the trade and transportation of locally and internationally listed endangered species. It therefore provides more trade safeguards for endemic flora and fauna.

Furthermore, only certain air and sea ports in Cayman will be designated to handle imports and exports, which will improve the inspection process for plant and animal species listed in CITES that are being traded through the Islands.

The law also helps Cayman's economy, by facilitating sustainable trade of both locally occurring and CITES-listed species such as black coral and queen conch, pointed out Minister of Environment Wayne Panton.

'We must have proper mechanisms in place that allow local vendors, who sell these products to international clients, to trade in these species in ways that are completely compliant with the CITES framework', he said.

One of those mechanisms is the Scientific Advisory Committee, created in the ESTTL in order to advise Government in relation to the law, to ensure that its intent is upheld.

Department of Environment Director Gina Ebanks-Petrie, who will chair the committee, said the ESTTL replaces the previous Cayman Islands CITES legislation, titled The Endangered Species Protection and Propagation Law (1999 Revision).

She also noted that the ESTTL intersects with The National Conservation Law, 2013; Animals Law (2013 Revision); and Plants (Importation and Exportation) Law (1997 Revision) in relation to the importation of live specimens of listed species. Persons who are applying for import or export permission under any one of these laws are still advised to apply for matching permissions under the other laws, as relevant.

In the ESTTL, Part IV deals with the registration of businesses and persons selling or carrying out other activities with listed species. Its purpose is to improveCayman's ability to track and control trade in local species, Mrs Ebanks-Petrie explained, which therefore will make it harder for poachers to 'launder' species that are taken illegally.

'By making it harder for poachers, we'll make it easier for business owners who are conducting transactions in the legal international trade of listed species', she said.

Mrs Ebanks-Petrie said that Part IV of the ESTTL will be brought into force at a later date but until then, Cayman is continuing to track and control international trade under previous legislative provisions.

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