International environmental crime shouldn't pay

provided by Worldwatch Institute

nforcement of international environmental treaties is so weak that there is little check on violations such as the smuggling of endangered species, illegal fishing and logging, and the illicit dumping of hazardous wastes, reports Worldwatch Research Associate Lisa Mastny in the September/October issue of World Watch magazine.

    “We've got plenty of environmental treaties, more than 500 at last count,” says Mastny, who coauthored Crimes of (a) Global Nature, with Hilary French, Director of the Global Governance Project at the Worldwatch Institute. “But pieces of paper don't frighten criminals. Unless governments start implementing the terms of these treaties, and put some teeth into enforcement, these lawbreakers will continue to ravage and pollute our planet.”

    Among the shocking violations mentioned in the article are the following:

  • Smuggling wildlife, including many endangered species, is now the third largest illegal cross-border activity after the arms and drug trades.
  • Poachers are stealing an estimated 38 million animals a year from Brazil's Amazon forests.
  • In some of the world's most important fisheries, as much as 30 percent of the catch may be illegal.
  • Wildlife smugglers make huge profits: an African Grey Parrot that wholesales for $18 in Senegal brings $700 on the US black market; a Golden Lion Tamarin wholesales in Brazil for $190, and sells for $20,000 on the European black market; a smuggled Tuatara (a lizard-like reptile with a well-developed third eye) sells for $13,636 per pound – more than twice the price of gold.
  • Dealers in illicit hazardous wastes are using the pretext of “recycling” to circumvent export controls; they pass off hazardous wastes as recyclable material, escaping government oversight.
  • Illegal logging is a huge business; the United States imported an estimated $330 million worth of illegal timber from Indonesia in 2000.

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