Trafficking crackdown

7th April 2016


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  • Natural resources ,
  • Biodiversity ,
  • Ecosystems ,
  • Politics & Economics ,
  • Global

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IEMA

The EU launches crackdown on wildlife trafficking.

In September 2014, one of the first things to land on the desk of the newly appointed environment commissioner, Karmenu Vella, was a letter I had written, co-signed by 80 MEPs, urging him to propose an EU action plan against wildlife trafficking. So I was delighted last month when he finally presented proposals to step up the fight against the illegal wildlife trade.

Europe has already been at the forefront of global efforts to tackle this activity, contributing millions of euros to schemes that prevent the unlawful killing of elephants by setting up anti-poaching patrols. Last year the bloc’s crime-fighting body, Europol, supported the world’s largest international operation against wildlife crime, which resulted in more than 200 arrests and the seizure of 12 tonnes of ivory and 119 rhino horns.

Vella’s proposed action plan builds on this success by ensuring coordinated action is taken across all areas so that authorities can stay one step ahead of poachers and wildlife-trafficking gangs.

A key proposal is the requirement for every member state to treat wildlife offences seriously. Currently, wildlife traffickers in some countries receive only a small fine and a warning, so these member states become transit points for this despicable trade. Under the commissioner’s plans, criminal gangs caught trafficking ivory and other illicit wildlife products, be they animal parts, live pets, plants or endangered birds, would receive the punishment they deserve, with sentences of up to four years imprisonment common across the EU.

The plan will also target more EU aid on efforts to tackle poachers in developing countries. This will include support for projects to develop alternative livelihoods, such as wildlife tourism so that local communities regard wild animals as an economic asset to be protected. There will also be more EU funding for joint law enforcement operations to crack down on wildlife trafficking gangs in Europe.

This kind of coordinated action is a great example of how by working together in Europe we are so much stronger in the fight against global problems. As the EU referendum campaign heats up, I would urge all those who care about our shared environment to speak out.

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