By Gary Stokes – Asia Director
I don’t normally go too much for these one off day awareness grabbers. With the worlds ecosystems and wildlife under serious threat and the world standing by witnessing the sixth mass extinction, I feel that every day should be a World Wildlife Day and we definitely should be VERY serious about wildlife crime. Wildlife crime threatens the delicate balance of our very life support system that maintains our existence on this planet.
One person that I do have a lot of respect for is the Secretary General of CITES Mr John Scanlon who is someone taking it very seriously, however I do feel he needs a lot more help.
When I visited the wildlifeday.org website to download a poster, I was surprised that there was no mention of the oceans at all? Posters of Rhino’s, Elephants, Tigers, Chimps and deforestation, but no mention of the largest most threatened ecosystem on the planet…….the ocean!!
So I made my own poster with a shark and headed off to ground zero of the shark fin trade, Sheung Wan in Hong Kong. It’s the least I could do to recognize one of the largest threats to humanity and one of the largest contributors to wildlife crime, IUU Fishing (illegal, un-regulated and reported fishing).
We’re serious about combating international wildlife crime however sometimes the lack of supports from the agencies we report crimes to is somewhat lacking to non-existent.
At the end of 2014 I reported a case to Interpol who kindly redirected me to the (WCO) World Customs Organization as this was clearly a matter for them. The issue was a large shipment of shark fins that left Spain frozen but was declared to customs at a value of just US$0.60c/kg. (market price should be US$25-50/kg). They arrived in the Philippines, were unpacked, dried out then repacked and shipped to Hong Kong. The customs export declaration papers from Philippines declared the value now to be US$1/kg? I alerted the Hong Kong Customs who waited for the importers paperwork to be filed. The price now…..US$11/kg. How could this have been changed en-route?
When I challenged that the price was still far below the market price, the Hong Kong Customs told me that they had checked the market price and that it “wasn’t un-reasonable”. I asked with whom they checked……… “the HK Shark Fin Traders”, the very people who would stand to gain from under-declaring a luxury item!
Armed with this as a test case, if the customs officers of the world checked on the customs value declared and ensured a market value price was declared, this would remove much of the profit from the shark fin industry, dealing one massive blow and probably putting much of the traders out of business. After sending all the information to the World Customs Organization, part of the recently formed ICCWC (International Coalition Combatting Wildlife Crime), I have yet after 4 months to receive any reply……….
Yes, “It’s time to get serious about wildlife crime”, so lets start actually doing that for the sake of future generations and the survival of our species!