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EU states commit to ending wildlife crime, but critical measures missing

21 June 2016
by WWF -- last modified 21 June 2016

EU Environment Ministers endorsed Monday an ambitious EU Action Plan to boost the region’s collective efforts to end wildlife trafficking, but the absence of some key commitments could weaken its overall impact and effectiveness.


The Action Plan was developed to strengthen the EU's response to the global poaching and illegal wildlife trade crisis and was adopted by the European Commission in February. WWF warmly welcomed the plan but hoped that ministers would support it by endorsing additional concrete commitments on financial resources, national legislative amendments, and reporting – all of which are missing from the final conclusions.

"EU Environment Ministers have demonstrated their desire to crack down on wildlife crime by signing up to this wide-ranging action plan, but they should have been even bolder," said Sally Nicholson, Head of Development Policy & Finance at WWF European Policy Office. "Ministers failed to pledge the necessary financial and human resources to back up their words and prove they are really serious about fighting wildlife trafficking."

The EU Action Plan as well as other international commitments requires Member States to legally recognise wildlife trafficking as a "serious crime" and to review relevant national legislation on money laundering. However, not all Member States have taken these steps, so they must do so urgently to ensure that organised wildlife trafficking is punishable by a minimum sentence of at least four years imprisonment.

"Weak punishments are part of the reason wildlife trafficking has become one of the world's most widespread transnational criminal activities," said Sally Nicholson. "Increasing sanctions, tackling corruption and making sure wildlife crime is a high priority for law enforcement at EU and national levels are of paramount importance to deter criminals."

The Environment Minsters' conclusions do acknowledge that the EU plays an important role not just as a transit point and end market but also as a source region for the trafficking of endangered domestic species. This refers in particular to the European eel and Danube sturgeon species. WWF also welcomes the recognition of the critical role of local communities and civil society in the conservation of wildlife, and the need for their involvement.

With 30,000 elephants being poached in Africa last year as well as a record 1,338 rhinos, EU leadership is critical in the fight to end wildlife crime in Europe and around the world, which threatens not only species but also security and sustainable development.

Member States now need to make sure they fully implement the EU Action Plan and report back on the progress made, especially for the actions to be delivered by the end of 2016. In particular, the EU has an important role to play at the largest ever Conference of the Parties of the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) in Johannesburg in September. There it will be lobbying for a number of measures that are part of the plan, including better regulation of trade in hunting trophies and measures to address corruption.    

The European Policy Office contributes to the achievement of WWF's global mission by leading the WWF network to shape EU policies impacting on the European and global environment.

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