According to a new Commission report on progress in the implementation of the EU Wildlife Action Plan, the EU and Member States have done a lot to address the root causes of wildlife trafficking, increase enforcement and strengthen the global partnership of source, consumer and transit countries. However, despite encouraging signs of decreases in poaching levels for elephants and rhinoceros in recent years, wildlife trafficking continues to thrive and more efforts are needed.
The European Commission published today a report presenting an overview of progress that EU Member States, the European External Action Service, Europol, Eurojust and European networks specialising in the enforcement of EU environmental law have made in implementing the 32 actions of the EU Action Plan against Wildlife Trafficking adopted in February 2016.
European Commissioner for the Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Karmenu Vella said: "I am happy to see that policy-makers, law enforcement agencies and stakeholders in the EU have made good progress on the Wildlife Action Plan, resulting in numerous initiatives at EU and national level. Nevertheless, wildlife trafficking continues to pose a serious threat to biodiversity, the rule of law and sustainable development. Together, we need to further intensify our efforts to reach the objectives of the Action Plan by 2020, and meet the target of the UN 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development on wildlife trafficking."
More enforcement measures in the EU
Wildlife trafficking was recognised in 2017 as a priority under the EU fight against transnational organised crime, which led to more resources devoted to it at the EU and Member States levels for the period 2018-2021. Major cross-border investigations and seizures of illegally trade wildlife products have been carried out throughout the EU, with the active involvement of Europol, Eurojust and many law enforcement agencies from different Member States and other countries. In 2016, the competent authorities of EU Member States reported to the European Commission a total of 2268 significant seizures of wildlife commodities, 63 % of them at external EU borders. More than two tonnes of ivory were seized in 2016, destined for the Asian market. In 2016-17, 48 persons were arrested and 4 000 kg of live juvenile eels seized; the eels were intercepted as they were being exported to Asia and their total value was approximately EUR 4 million.
Addressing the root causes of wildlife trafficking
EU and Member States also made efforts to help reduce the demand for illegal wildlife and making sure that intra-EU trade and export of ivory items do not contribute to elephant poaching and illegal ivory trade. This included providing support to public authorities and civil society organisations in Asia in their efforts to curb the demand for illegal wildlife products, raising the awareness of business, consumers and the general public about the scale of wildlife trafficking in the EU, and pushing for concrete action against corruption linked to wildlife trafficking.
Amounting to a de-facto EU ban on the export of raw ivory, as of 1 July 2017 EU Member States have stopped exporting raw ivory, except in very specific situations, such as for scientific and educational purposes or in police investigations. The European Commission also gathered views on ivory trade in the European Union. The public consultation received around 90 000 replies from individuals and organisations across the EU and beyond, with the majority supporting tightening the current EU rules on ivory trade. Find out more in a detailed report.
Strengthening global partnerships
The Action Plan has provided a significant boost in EU funding for capacity-building and international action against wildlife trafficking, and for enhancing the role of local communities in the protection of biodiversity and wildlife. In addition to pre-existing financial support and ongoing activities, further significant additional EU funds (around EUR 340 million in Africa, Asia, the Pacific, South America and the Caribbean) were mobilised in 2016 and 2017 under the EU development and cooperation policy.
The Wildlife Action Plan also helped mobilise the EU and Member States' diplomatic networks in many other countries to combat wildlife trafficking. Thanks to effective cooperation within the Union and with partner countries, strong proposals were made by the EU in multilateral forums, notably under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), to prompt actions against trafficking in ivory, rhino horns, rosewood, pangolins, tiger parts or rosewood.
In February 2016, the European Commission adopted the EU Action Plan against Wildlife Trafficking laying out a comprehensive strategy to fight wildlife crime inside the European Union and to strengthen the EU's role in the global fight against these illegal activities. The Action Plan contains 32 actions, structured around three priorities: (i) preventing wildlife trafficking and addressing its root causes; (ii) implementing and enforcing existing rules and combating organised wildlife crime more effectively; and (iii) strengthening the global partnership of source, consumer and transit countries against wildlife trafficking.
The Action Plan covers a five-year period from 2016 to 2020 and requests the Commission to report in 2018 on progress in its implementation and on whether its priorities and objectives are still appropriate and relevant.
25 October 2018