Wildlife trafficking has become one of the most profitable criminal activities in the world due to strong demand and a low risk of detection. In spite of this, it still gets less attention than other types of crime and far fewer resources are invested in combating it. Therefore, in its opinion adopted at the July plenary, the EESC welcomes the Commission's proposal for an EU Action Plan against Wildlife Trafficking. This crime is closely connected to other illegal activities of international criminal organisations, including money laundering and corruption. It also has a huge negative impact on the environment (loss of biodiversity, deforestation, potential extinction of several species, fish stock reduction) and health (contagion from new pathogens, infectious diseases).
Stopping wildlife trafficking requires a multi-level approach
"We have to put a hold on wildlife trafficking", said Cillian Lohan, the rapporteur of the EESC opinion which proposes to counter this crime on several different levels:
- At the community level in source countries by raising awareness and creating sustainable jobs and income as alternatives to poaching and trafficking;
- At the level of organised crime by enforcing a system of common and effective sanctions, and by providing resources for the policing efforts;
- At the demand level by raising awareness of businesses and consumers and creating a traceability and labelling system;
- At the judiciary level by promoting enforcement and by training judges to ensure consistent and proportional sentences.
EU-wide cooperation and coordination is a precondition
The EESC is convinced that the action plan will only be successfully implemented if all Member States comply with existing EU wildlife legislation and bring their legislation into line with international agreements. "We must set up a joint mechanism for cooperation, coordination, communication and data flow between the responsible authorities in the Member States, also developing specific strategies on cross-border operations and a common register of traffickers", outlined Mr. Lohan.
In particular, the EESC highlights the importance of the upcoming 17th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (CoP17) to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and urges the EU to take a strong position to support the objectives of this Action Plan. Mr. Lohan stated: "We are calling on the Commission to support a proposal for the closure of domestic markets to ivory as a critical contribution to the prevention of the threat of extinction to African elephants".
A threat to public health and native animal and plant species
Wildlife trafficking poses a great danger to public health and to native animals and plant species. The EESC therefore urges the Commission to include this highly relevant issue in the EU Action Plan. Labelling and the proposed traceability system together with an appropriate veterinary and plant health control mechanism can help to counter the emergence and spread of diseases.
In this context, the EESC also refers to e-commerce, which is the new and rapidly growing method for illegal wildlife trade. Certain Member States are already addressing illegal e-commerce and such best practices should be considered.
Information and education indispensable
Last but not least, the role of civil society in tackling and preventing wildlife trafficking is crucial in both source and demand countries. Therefore, the EESC proposes a broad European awareness-raising campaign involving consumers and private businesses in order to reduce the supply and demand of illegal wildlife products. The EESC also reiterates its readiness to support EU initiatives in this context as needed.
For more information, please contact: Silvia Aumair - E-mail: presseesc [dot] europa [dot] eu (subject: I%2520would%2520like%2520some%2520information) - Tel: +32 2 546 8141 - @EESC_PRESS