Commission boosts fight against wildlife trafficking ahead of crucial international meeting

Posted on 10 November 2022

The newly revised EU Action Plan against Wildlife Trafficking (EU-WAP) published yesterday by the European Commission is a critical step forward in the fight against illegal wildlife trade.
Building on five years of activities implemented under the previous plan, it incorporates objectives and actions adapted to newly arising issues which will enable the EU and Member States to combat wildlife crime more effectively in the region and globally.

The EU is one of the biggest importers of wildlife species and wildlife-derived commodities in the world, some of which are illegally imported and traded within the Union. Some European species are also legally and illegally traded within and/or out of Europe, or are victims of other forms of wildlife crime. 

The EU Action Plan comes ahead of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES CoP19), the main international body governing wildlife trade, which will start in Panama on 14 November. 

“The new Action Plan represents a great opportunity for the EU to reassert its commitments to fight wildlife trafficking at this crucial international conference on wildlife trade, and we are now calling on the Council and the European Parliament to strongly endorse it,” said Audrey Chambaudet, Policy officer, wildlife trade and wildlife crime at the WWF European Policy Office. “It is also very timely in the context of the revision of the EU Environmental Crime Directive. The positions that the European Parliament and Member States will take on this file, especially on sanction levels, will reflect  how seriously they take the fight against environmental crime, and particularly wildlife crime.”

The previous EU-WAP, which ended in 2020, was instrumental in raising the profile of wildlife trafficking and contained a comprehensive set of measures. Nonetheless, with time a number of gaps were identified that hindered the full achievement of its objectives, making an exhaustive update necessary.

WWF welcomes a number of new measures included in the EU-WAP, such as:
  • Actions aimed at improving implementation at the national and regional levels. This will ensure that wildlife trafficking remains a priority for Member States and that the European dimension of wildlife crime is addressed. 
  • Actions on financial investigations and asset recovery. These tools have been recognized as indispensable to effectively combat wildlife trafficking, especially when dealing with organized crime, as a way to dismantle their activities and affect them where it is most disruptive. 
  • The recognition of human rights and gender approaches as effective ways to better understand wildlife trafficking, to better engage with communities, and to offer innovative conservation solutions.
  • The retention of a comprehensive source to consumer approach that aims at tackling wildlife trafficking along the whole chain (demand reduction, law enforcement, judicial authorities, private sector, One Health, etc.), including by better involving non-governmental organizations, and by pursuing the support and cooperation with third countries. 
  • Breaching silos by referring to relevant EU legislation (Digital Services Act, Directive on corporate sustainability due diligence, Environmental Crime Directive, Directive on combating money laundering by criminal law,, Directive on asset recovery and confiscation, etc.), and encouraging cooperation with relevant EU agencies and programs (OLAF, Europol, Eurojust, EMPACT, ENPE, etc.).

Nevertheless, the Plan has a number of shortcomings. While WWF takes note of the European Commission's commitment to develop a monitoring system within a year, having such a reporting, monitoring and evaluation framework already incorporated into the Plan would have further boosted its efficiency. Although the revised Plan identifies sufficient allocation of resources at EU and Member State level as crucial, it fails to include any specific action to ensure this is achieved, risking falling into the same traps as for the 2016-2020 Action Plan.


Notes to the editor
  • Wildlife crime is a major environmental crime, and it encompasses any breach of national, regional, or international legislation that protects wildlife species. It includes illegal wildlife trade, but also illegal killing, poisoning, or poaching of wildlife, as well as the unauthorised alteration or destruction of habitats. Examples of wildlife crime in Europe include exotic pet species illegally taken from their habitats, sturgeons poached for their caviar, birds of prey and large carnivores poisoned. Not only does wildlife crime harm the environment, but it also negatively affects security, governance, the economy, and ultimately human lives.  
  • The first EU Action Plan against Wildlife Trafficking concluded in 2020. In October 2021, the European Commission launched a consultation for its evaluation and revision. 
Pangolin
The pangolin is the world's most trafficked animal
© LTD Alamy Stock Photo