Catherine Bearder MEP writes… Launch of MEP group on Wildlife Crime

Wildlife crime is a major threat to international security. This trade is now worth an estimated $20 billion a year and has become the fourth largest illegal activity in the world after drugs, arms and people-trafficking. From Al Shabab in Somalia to Boko Haram in Nigeria, armed groups and criminal gangs are making huge profits from the illegal wildlife trade, fuelling instability and conflict.

We need to act now to stop them.

Last November, 82 MEPs co-signed my letter to the European Commission calling for an EU Action Plan against Wildlife Crime. To follow up on this, yesterday I launched the MEPs for Wildlife Interest Group, led by one MEP from each of the European Parliament’s seven political groups. This will keep the pressure on the Commission to propose a comprehensive EU Action Plan with measures proposed across all areas, from development aid to justice and home affairs.

Any EU plan should include three elements: a permanent fund to boost anti-poaching efforts, tougher minimum sanctions for wildlife criminals and a dedicated new Wildlife Crime Unit in the EU’s crime-fighting agency Europol. Anti-poaching patrols and customs officers in Africa are increasingly finding themselves outmanned and outgunned. Europe is still used as a major transit for the illegal wildlife trade and in some EU member states wildlife traffickers continue to be let off with a mere fine and a slap on the wrist. We need a proper strategy that addresses these problems in every area that the EU operates.

Time is against us. The illegal ivory trade has led to the slaughter of 100,000 elephants in the past two years. At this rate, African elephants in the wild could be wiped out within 10 years. I was pleased to see China has bowed to international pressure and announced a year-long ban on carved ivory imports ahead of this week’s visit by Prince William. But much more needs to be done. The fight against wildlife-trafficking will not be easy. But future generations would not forgive us if we failed to put a stop to this despicable trade.

* Catherine Bearder is a Liberal Democrat MEP for the South East and Leader of the European Parliament Liberal Democrat Group.

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  • Jack Davies 6th Mar '15 - 5:20pm

    Great article, Catherine! Wildlife crime is still a massive issue. With you fighting hard, I’m sure we’ll see some success.

  • Jack Riggall 7th Mar '15 - 8:59am

    This is fantastic news, well done! Whilst the focus is understandably on ivory, will tougher action be taken against wildlife crime in the UK too, such as persecution of raptors, hunting with dogs, illegal over-fishing & the increase in badger persecution?

    Best wishes,

  • So the last living Liberal Democrat MEP is working to protect endangered species.

    Makes sense to me. 🙂

  • Good work Catherine, thanks keep it up.

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