The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (“CITES”) is an international agreement that strives to ensure that international trade in wild animals and plants does not threaten the survival of those species. CITES was adopted by 80 countries in 1973. The text of the agreement provides for various measures to prevent the illicit trade in goods made of endangered species. Specifically, CITES imposes controls on all import, export, re-export, and introduction from the sea, of species covered by the agreement, to be authorized through a licensing system. The species that fall within the scope of CITES are listed and maintained in three appendices based on the degree of protection required.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is responsible for regulating and managing the export and sale of paddlefish roe (caviar). To obtain a paddlefish roe export permit, an applicant must establish that it properly harvested the roe, and that its export would not undermine the survival of the species. But what happens when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has had the application for months, and has taken no action on it?