Further demonstrating the environment's value to a wide range of local businesses, international trade involving certain animal and plant species can continue without the fear of suspension, now that Cayman Islands legislation has been rated fully compliant with all international standards related to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).

The rating allows Cayman business owners to continue international trade in relation to species that are both locally, commercially important and CITES listed, such as black coral and queen conch.

'Cayman's commerce and environment sectors both benefit tremendously from being CITES compliant', said Commerce and Environment Minister Wayne Panton.

'This rating, for example, facilitates the importation of conch to continue without interruption, thereby allowing local restaurants to continue serving conch dishes year-round, without the need to over-fish our local supply. Similarly, jewellery makers will be able to continue creating their artistic expressions with imported black coral.

'Moreover, being fully compliant will allow persons to continue to export certain protected species – this means that tourists who purchase crafts made with CITES-listed species will be able to do so with confidence, knowing they'll be able to take their purchases back home. This is yet another clear advantage for local commerce', he said.

On 28 March, the Ministry of Environment was informed by the UK's Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) that Cayman achieved category one fully compliant CITES status. This rating removes any possibility of restrictions being placed on the Cayman Islands with regard to the international trade of CITES-listed species.

The CITES Secretariat, which is based in Switzerland, has been reviewing CITES legislation around the world and judged Cayman as fully compliant based on the strength of Cayman's CITES legislation. In Cayman, CITES is governed by The Endangered Species (Trade and Transport) Law 2004 (ESTTL), which commenced on 1 July 2015. 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 animal and plant species.

'Attaining this rating is a major accomplishment for Cayman and speaks to the sound legal framework put in place to govern our trade in certain plants and animals', Minister Panton said. 'It has taken more than a decade of work to get the law to this point, and high praise is in order for the Ministry and Department of Environment (DoE) staff for their dedication in seeing it through. I also thank Defra for their guidance and for acting as our agents when communicating with the CITES Secretariat'.

CITES is an international agreement for global species conservation which the Cayman Islands have been party to, and aimed to comply with despite outdated legislation, for decades. It subjects international trade in specimens of selected species to certain controls, in order for those species to avoid the threat of extinction.

'If we had failed to earn category one status, and therefore faced the potential of restrictions on the importation of certain species such as conch, it would have put a tremendous strain on our natural resources', said DoE Director Gina Ebanks-Petrie. 'It also would have affected the cost of doing business and subsequently, the price the public pays for goods.'

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