The Commission has adopted a revised EU Action Plan to put an end to illegal wildlife trade, as announced in the Biodiversity Strategy for 2030. The lucrative global black market in illegal wildlife trade contributes to the depletion or extinction of entire species and furthers zoonotic diseases – diseases that spread between animals and humans. According to the 2020 World Wildlife Crime Report by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, every country in the world is affected by wildlife trafficking, with a wide variety of species involved, from eels to pangolins to rosewood. The updated plan will guide new EU actions against wildlife trafficking until 2027, building on the first Action Plan adopted six years ago.
The revised plan has four main priorities:
- Preventing wildlife trafficking and addressing its root causes, by reducing consumer demand for illegally traded wildlife, supporting sustainable livelihoods in source countries, and tackling corruption at all levels;
- Strengthening the legal and policy framework against wildlife trafficking, by aligning EU and national policies with international commitments and latest evidence, and engaging with business sectors involved in the wildlife trade;
- Enforcing regulations and policies to fight wildlife trafficking effectively, by improving the rate of detection of illegal activities within the EU, focusing on capacity-building along the entire enforcement chain, encouraging coordination and cooperation within and between Member States and increasing efforts in tackling the online aspects of wildlife trafficking;
- Strengthening the global partnership of source, consumer and transit countries against wildlife trafficking, by enhancing their capacity and improving cooperation between the Member States, EU enforcement actors and key non-EU countries.
In November, parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES) will meet in Panama to consider stricter trade regulations for nearly 600 species of flora and fauna. The EU will bring this revised action plan along with a strong package of proposals for species to be listed in CITES Appendixes at CITES COP19.
Illegal wildlife trade is a driver of biodiversity loss, can vastly weaken wild populations of flora and fauna, and in some cases drive them to extinction. Wildlife trafficking also has destructive socio-economic consequences as the destruction of ecosystems which can result from poaching and trafficking often deprives local communities of legal and sustainable forms of income. As the Covid-19 pandemic has recently highlighted, unmanaged wildlife trade can be a source of the spread of zoonotic diseases, with potentially devastating results for public health.
The EU is a hub for global wildlife trafficking and has a key role to play in the fight against it. The reported value of the illegal wildlife trade in the EU was a minimum of €4.7 million in 2019 but is likely to be much larger. EU Member State authorities consistently seize wildlife in various commodity types ranging from medicinal, corals, reptiles, birds, plants, and mammals. Since 2017, there have been on average over 6,000 annual seizures involving CITES-listed wildlife in the EU.
The revised Action Plan comes at a critical moment for preserving global biodiversity. It shows that the EU is leading by example ahead of two major international meetings: the United Nations Biodiversity Conference COP15 in Montreal in December, where parties are expected to reach a global deal to halt and reverse the continued destruction of biodiversity, and CITES COP19 in Panama, 14-25 November.
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Wildlife trafficking is a serious crime, and poses a direct and growing threat to biodiversity, to global security and rule of law, and to sustainable livelihoods. As a hub for global wildlife trafficking, the EU has a particular responsibility to act. We must take the necessary measures to halt this illegal trade, stop further biodiversity loss and protect the communities whose economies and wellbeing directly depend on healthy ecosystems and wildlife.
Source – EU Commission
Q&A: EU Action Plan against wildlife trafficking
Brussels, 10 November 2022
What are the main differences between this Action Plan and the previous one?
Following consultations with the stakeholders involved, the new plan puts more focus on capacity-building along the entire enforcement chain. This includes training, data-sharing, as well as specialisation of police, judges, prosecutors, and other key enforcement actors.
It also includes new legal and policy tools to tighten and better enforce EU legislation related to wildlife trafficking. One key action will be to examine tightening EU regulations governing wildlife trade. Another will be to have stronger health focus to wildlife trade, applying the One Health approach. The plan also renews the EU’s commitment to fight online wildlife trafficking, with the future adoption of the Digital Services Act expected to give enforcement actors the necessary tools to tackle wildlife crime online.
The new Action Plan will also lead to more transparency and cooperation with stakeholders, calling for stronger partnership of the EU and its Member States with non-governmental organisations, international organisations, and the private sector.
The revised plan was built based on consultations with many parties involved in the previous plan. The Commission collected views from academia, NGOs and individuals via an open public consultation and workshops, and from Member State experts and enforcement agents via the EU CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) Expert and Enforcement Groups. In addition, the European Parliament adopted a on wildlife trafficking and international wildlife trade, making a series of requests to strengthen the ambition of the EU action plan against wildlife trafficking.
Is the Action Plan the only EU tool to regulate wildlife trade?
The EU also has important legislation on these issues. Wildlife trade from, into and within the EU is regulated through a set of Wildlife Trade Regulations that implement the provisions of the CITES Convention. The EU Nature Directives prohibit the sale and transport of a number of strictly protected wild species in the EU. Wildlife trafficking is also included in the revised Environmental Crime Directive.
What were the strengths and the weaknesses of the previous action plan?
The evaluation of the 2016 Action Plan found that wildlife trafficking has become a bigger priority among a wide range of policymakers, law enforcement agencies, and stakeholders in the EU and worldwide. The Action Plan was found to be comprehensive and flexible, leading to increased enforcement measures, coordination and cooperation, and altogether supported the EU’s fight against wildlife trafficking.
Although good progress has been made on most of the 32 actions in the Action Plan, the evaluation showed that the EU and Member States need to intensify their efforts to address emerging challenges.
- traded species and trading routes evolve over time
- the impact of wildlife trafficking on local communities,
- the connections between wildlife trade and the spread of zoonotic diseases,
- increasing online trade and related use of small-parcel services, and
- lack of capacity in many of the relevant agencies and authorities, worsened by a recent loss of revenues from wildlife tourism due to the pandemic and related restrictions.
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Source – EU Commission