Acronym for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. An international agreement between governments designed to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild plants and animals does not threaten their survival. A number of woods commonly used in guitar making – most notably Brazilian rosewood – are covered by CITES protective clauses.
The CITES agreements don’t ban all use of the protected materials. Rather, they specify that the materials be derived from renewable sources – ones that won’t be seriously depleted or even made extinct as a result of overuse.
In the 1960s, when the ideas for CITES were first formed, the regulation of wildlife trade for conservation purposes was something relatively new. Today, the need for such protection is much more clear. Annual international wildlife trade is estimated to be worth billions of dollars. The trade is diverse, ranging from live animals and plants to a vast array of wildlife products derived from them, including food products, exotic leather goods, wooden musical instruments, timber, tourist ornaments and medicines.