EU conference engages business on wildlife trafficking issues

CITES Secretary General John Scanlon (pictured here at the most recent IUCN conference in Hawaii) was quick to assert at a conference on the EU Wildlife Trafficking Plan that industry has a vital role to play in combatting wildlife trafficking by keeping their industry clean.

This week the European Commission brought together Member States, industry and other stakeholders at a conference on the implementation of the EU Wildlife Trafficking Action Plan. Nearly one year after its adoption progress has been made in some areas with several pet trade species given stricter protection at last year’s Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) Conference of Parties, including the endangered Barbary macaque, the African grey parrot and numerous reptiles.

Support for the plan came from Environment Ministers last year, but efforts to secure recognition by Justice and Home Affairs Ministers on the serious nature of wildlife crime, including links to organised crime and money laundering, are slower moving.

The conference focused on engagement with the business sector, and several pet trade associations and hobbyists argued their trade is legal, pleading that further regulations and bans would only force the industry underground.

Fortunately, CITES Secretary General John Scanlon was quick to assert that industry has a vital role to play in combatting wildlife trafficking by keeping their industry clean. He reminded participants that CITES is meant to ensure no species of wild fauna and flora is subject to unsustainable exploitation because of international trade.

Several Member States highlighted efforts in their country as well as shortcomings, including a lack of interest or awareness of the serious nature of wildlife trafficking by the judiciary. Calls for more support and coordination with Europol from countries echoed recent pleas from MEPs in letters to Environment and Home Affairs Ministers.

Customs and enforcers from Charles de Gaulle and Heathrow airports discussed the challenges of tackling wildlife trafficking from the heavy flow of passengers, cargo and postal items through their ports daily. Efforts to educate passengers, train staff, coordinate targeted enforcement operations and handle live animals are all part of their anti-trafficking strategies.

A summary of progress by the Commission, Member States and European External Action Service (EEAS) to tackle wildlife trafficking is now available and will serve as a basis for a future scoreboard on implementation. IFAW will continue lobbying for full implementation and enforcement of the Action Plan by all identified stakeholders.

--SM

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