Australia's Wildlife Trade Bill Sets New Standards

CANBERRA, Australia, May 24, 2001 (ENS) - The Australian government has introduced a bill that goes beyond Australia's international obligations in the management of wildlife trade.

The Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment (Wildlife Protection) Bill 2001 will integrate the existing Act dealing with wildlife trade within the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999. It was introduced into the Australian Senate today by Environment Minister Senator Robert Hill.

The strength of this national legislation has the potential to set a new benchmark for countries in the region, and around the world, in addressing the management of wildlife trade, says Glenn Sant, director of TRAFFIC Oceania, the Pacific Ocean branch of the wildlife trade monitoring program of the World Wide Fund for Nature and the IUCN-World Conservation Union.

Sant

Glenn Sant (left) outside Australia's Parliament House shortly after the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Amendment (Wildlife Protection) Bill was tabled (Photo courtesy TRAFFIC Oceania)
TRAFFIC Oceania, part of the global TRAFFIC Network that has 25 years experience dealing with wildlife trade legislation and its implementation, welcomed the bill.

"Australia has a unique and fragile biodiversity, the integrity of which is potentially threatened by both unsustainable practices sometimes associated with the export of wildlife, and the import of invasive species," said Sant. "This Bill addresses these problems directly and marks Australia's legislation as of a high standard at the global level."

Australia is a member of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). This convention has 153 parties who co-operate in the banning of commercial international trade in an agreed list of endangered species, and by regulating and monitoring trade in others that might become endangered.

The new bill adds protections to those already mandated by Australian law. It provides for the assessment of the potential invasive threat posed by an imported species, and the impact of harvesting a species is assessed on the ecosystem as a whole.

It incorporates tougher enforcement provisions which require that a person caught in possession of a CITES specimen must produce evidence that it was legally imported.

If passed, the new bill would allow for the prosecution levels already incorporated into the current Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act to be used.

But Sant said, "The success of the Bill will be dependent on the approval of key amendments that TRAFFIC Oceania intends to recommend after a full review of the Bill," Sant said.

"The crucial test of the bill's potential will be the government's guarantee of adequate funding to implement and enforce the legislation to ensure it is more than just a paper Tiger," he said.