Global Shipping Industry Takes Stand Against Wildlife Trafficking

The global shipping industry has joined the fight against wildlife trafficking, promising to help shut down transport routes used by traffickers. The Sustainable Shipping Initiative is backed by more than 40 organizations involved in international goods transport, including port operators, shipping companies, and airlines that have all pledged to end wildlife trafficking.

A Royal Idea

The Sustainable Shipping Initiative, spearheaded by Britain’s Prince William, worked with top conservation groups to develop an 11-point plan for how the shipping industry can take a stand. Member organizations approved the plan in mid-March.

Commitments shipping industry giants like Maersk and Dubai Ports World have made include:

  • Raising awareness of wildlife trafficking and its consequences among staff, customers, and clients
  • Teaching staff how to spot wildlife trafficking and encouraging reporting of suspicious cargo
  • Alerting law enforcement agencies about suspicious cargo and cooperating with investigations
  • Refusing to transport cargo linked to wildlife trafficking.

“This is really valuable and practical because it is the leaders of very big companies who are acting,” said World Wildlife Fund Conservation Director Glyn Davies. “Passengers will be told what to avoid, cargo staff are being trained what to look out for. People know about the transport of drugs and firearms, but now it will be wildlife, too.”

Traffickers can exploit legal loopholes and lenient laws to move shipments around the world. As the conduit, the shipping industry has the opportunity to set worldwide policies aimed at stopping wildlife trafficking.

“Criminals are able to exploit weak and corrupt standards, so we must raise those standards, collectively,” Prince William said about the initiative’s goals. “Cooperation is our greatest weapon against the poachers and traffickers who rely on evading individual national initiatives. By taking a truly international approach, we can get one step ahead of them.”

Trafficking’s Effects

Wildlife trafficking has a devastating effect on both the area where the plant or animal is being taken from and where it ends up.

Wildlife trafficking plays a large role in the dwindling populations of some animals. Poachers and traffickers who continue to supply products like ivory, rhino horn, and big cat fur have endangered those species and continued hunting could lead to their extinction.
Wildlife trafficking has also been the cause of invasive species being released and wreaking havoc on local ecosystems. Illegally imported Burmese pythons let loose by their owners are a major pest in the Everglades.

Big Businesses Taking on a Big Problem

Wildlife trafficking is a multi-billion dollar international business, so poachers and traffickers will go to great lengths to evade the authorities. Partnerships like the Sustainable Shipping Initiative involve organizations on the front lines to address the problem.

In the United States, major shippers joined other industries, non-profit organizations, and conservation groups in forming the U.S. Wildlife Trafficking Alliance to tackle the problem on many fronts.

As part of the U.S. Wildlife Trafficking Alliance, transporters including JetBlue and Royal Caribbean are educating passengers about trafficking and watching for suspicious items. Meanwhile online retail giants Google, Etsy, and Ebay have committed to making sure trafficked products aren’t sold on their sites.

“In the next five to 10 years if there’s not a massive change, a dramatic change in the way we appreciate and protect these iconic species in Africa there won’t be these incredible animals there, which not only is obviously sad for future generations but I think it would be incredibly devastating for humanity itself when we have sat back and we have lost something we have been responsible for,” Prince William said at the Sustainable Shipping Initiative signing.

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