Posted on 12 March 2020
Aimed to improve detection, prosecution and punishment of wildlife offenses; with a specific focus on sturgeons.
26-27 February 2020 (Belgrade, Serbia)
- WWF Adria-Serbia
and the Ministry of Environment brought together inspectors, police officials, prosecutors and judges from all parts of Serbia to enhance mutual cooperation in the field of wildlife crime
. The training was held in conjunction with the CITES Convention
Implementation Group (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) and aimed to improve detection, prosecution and punishment of wildlife offenses; with a specific focus on sturgeon
species. Protecting sturgeons and their habitats is a key element of WWF Central and Eastern Europe's New Deal for Nature and People
programme, and its goal to halt and reverse biodiversity and habitat loss by 2030.
More than 100 representatives of national agencies learned more about the concept of wildlife crime, including further insights on national laws and international conventions that protect wild species from trade and other illegal activities. "The aim of the training is, first and foremost, to strengthen the capacities of the police to conduct investigations and discover illegal activities concerning wild species and their habitats. Above all, it refers to illegal trade, poaching and any other acts that occur as a consequence of organised crime and corruption. It was of great importance to finally be able to gather at one place inspectors, prosecutors and judges from all over Serbia, so they can share experiences and ideas and get familiar with the CITES Convention and wildlife crime,”
concluded Pavle Jovanovic from the Ministry of Environment.
The practical part of the training presented an overview of the current practices in Serbia to prevent wildlife offenses, and shared examples of good practices to detect smuggling that have been implemented by law enforcement services in other European countries. Detection and prevention of illegal fishing is among the major threats that many of the fish species in Serbia face, especially sturgeons.
As a result of the intensive lobbying of organisations like WWF, sturgeon protection is becoming a priority for the EU
“The training was organised as part of the LIFE for Danube Sturgeon Project that is being implemented in the Lower Danube, including Serbia. The project aims to improve enforcement of laws and regulations through national training courses and enhancement of expertise and practical skills of officials with direct responsibility for protection of endangered fish species. Although the Ministry of Environment, at the urging of WWF, has adopted a permanent ban on fishing of sturgeons, it is still necessary to cooperate with inspectors, judges and prosecutors in order to effectively prosecute offenses. Laws in Serbia are not always properly enforced,”
said Vesna Maksimovic, project coordinator in Serbia.
The participants shared the view that there is a need reorder priorities and increase the capacity of people and material resources at Serbian law enforcement institutions. Potential establishment of a special unit for combating environmental crime
, replicating similar agencies elsewhere in Western Europe, may bring significant change to the way the problem of wildlife crime is tackled.
"This training is a shining example of how people from different fields, who face the same problems, can come together in one place. I have learned so much information thanks to WWF and the Ministry of Environment, which I will share with my colleagues when I return to my hometown prosecutor's office, so that cases can be handled more quickly and efficiently,”
said Livija Panic Miletic, Public Prosecutor from Subotica
The joint training was delivered by Pavle Jovanovic, Leader of the CITES Convention Implementation Group (Ministry of Environment);, Gordana Petkovic, Environmental Law Specialist (ECOLIBRA Environmental Consulting Agency),; Livija Panic Miletic, Public Prosecutor (OJT Subotica); and Ognjen Krnetic, Head of Fish Warden Service at Kolubara and Sava; and representatives of WWF Adria-Serbia.
The Sustainable Protection of Lower Danube Sturgeons by Preventing and Counteracting Poaching and Illegal Wildlife Trade Project (2016-2020) is coordinated by WWF Austria, and implemented by WWF-Austria, WWF-Bulgaria, WWF-Romania, WWF-Serbia and WWF-Ukraine. Other partners include the Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve Authority in Romania and IZW Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research in Germany.
For more information:
WWF is engaged in sturgeon protection measures in most Danube countries.
Sturgeons used to be present in almost all European rivers, but today seven out of the eight species of sturgeon on the European continent are threatened with extinction. Sturgeons have survived the dinosaurs, but now teeter on the brink of extinction. The Black Sea Region is crucial to the survival of these species in Europe. The Danube and the Rioni River in Georgia are the only two rivers remaining in Europe where migrating sturgeons reproduce naturally. The main reasons are overfishing and loss of habitat through dams that block migration routes or in-river constructions, facilitating navigation. These are often detrimental to the feeding and spawning habitats, necessary for sturgeon survival. Within the EU the only river with naturally reproducing sturgeon populations remains the Danube. Crucial but no longer reproductive stocks are left in the Po River in Italy and the Gironde in France. Restocking activities take place in Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania, France, Germany, Poland, Austria and the Netherlands. Our priority is to identify and protect the critical habitats of the remaining four sturgeon species (Huso huso
, Acipenser stellatus
, A. ruthenus
, A. gueldenstaedtii
) in the Lower Danube and north-western Black Sea, as well as to reduce pressure on their remaining populations by addressing poaching and ensuring protection.