Stopping the trade that kills
Currently, smugglers of illegal wildlife are often only fined, and these fines may be less than the value of the wildlife they are illegally smuggling – making this ineffective as a deterrent.
In related moves, , Russia is passing legislation making smuggling of endangered species a criminal offence subject to jail time. Additionally, Japan announced it intends to raise the penalties for those convicted of wildlife trafficking from one to five years in jail. New Zealand announced a similar increase in punitive measures, with penalties for those convicted of smuggling native wildlife increased to up to five years in jail, putting them into the zone of serious crime.
Meanwhile, penalties handed out for those convicted of rhino poaching in South Africa have also risen into the very strong deterrent range. They include recent sentences of 29 years for poaching offences, while a convicted Thai national kingpin in a rhino horn poaching racket was given a 40 year jail sentence late last year.
During the crime commission meeting, governments also agreed to a proposal from Norway to address crimes at sea that impact upon the environment, including fisheries crimes. Illegal fishing undermines efforts by governments and responsible fishers to sustainably manage fisheries. It also threatens livelihoods, food security and sustainable development, and costs the global economy US $23 billion annually.
Similar to the UN’s request for illegal trade, WWF is advocating for serious fisheries offenses to be criminalized and crimes adequately punished to effectively deter fishers and fishing companies from engaging in crimes. This involves upgrading national laws but also international cooperation by fisheries, judiciary, customs and police agencies.
These represent important developments in WWF’s efforts to “kill the trade that kills “, helping meet a key campaign target of gaining the commitment of influential governments to treat the illegal wildlife trade as a serious crime.