In recent years, there has been a monumental increase in wildlife crime, resulting in an extinction crisis that threatens the global diversity of species, as well as the security and stability of many countries. Wildlife trafficking is one of the leading causes of this crisis. Unfortunately, it is a multi-billion dollar global industry with a low rate of arrests and convictions.
Because of its underground nature, detection is almost impossible through law enforcement officials acting alone. Protecting and incentivizing people to report illegal activity is crucial to combating this increasingly lucrative trade and the poaching that sustains it – but additional enforcement capabilities are needed.
The National Whistleblower Center is proud to support the Wildlife Conservation and Anti-Trafficking Act (H.R.864). This bill, introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives in 2019 by Congressmen John Garamendi (D-CA) and Don Young (R-AK), would empower whistleblowers to report information about wildlife crime and strengthen the enforcement capacity of U.S. agents. It offers a powerful new tool to combat looming threats to global wildlife, including wildlife trafficking, the illegal timber trade, and illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing.
If implemented, this groundbreaking piece of legislation would enhance the ability of informants, whistleblowers, and company insiders around the world to detect and report wildlife crimes, at no additional cost to taxpayers. In its scope, the Wildlife Conservation and Anti-Trafficking Act aims to:
- Strengthen wildlife crime detection by mandating whistleblower rewards for citizens and NGOs worldwide who report information on wildlife crime which results in a successful prosecution.
- Enhance enforcement mechanisms by expanding transnational law enforcement to stop wildlife trafficking at the source. Wildlife trafficking would become an offense under federal racketeering and organized crime statutes.
- Increase wildlife conservation funding, as monies recovered by successful prosecution under said statutes and other wildlife protection laws would be put directly into conservation efforts.
- Dedicate funding for illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing enforcement, by redirecting any fines and/or penalties collected by NOAA Fisheries for IUU fishing violations.
NWC played a leading role in the campaign to inform non-profits and the public about this bill and garner their support. NWC has successfully obtained endorsements from many high profile anti-trafficking and wildlife conservation NGOs, including the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, Environmental Investigative Agency, Natural Resources Defense Council, Oceana, Conservation International, World Wildlife Fund, and more.
HR.864 offers a powerful tool in the fight against wildlife trafficking – with whistleblowers at the center. And as an October 2020 poll from the Whistleblower News Network shows, corporate whistleblowers enjoy broad support from the American public. When asked if passing stronger laws that protect employees who report corporate fraud should be a priority for Congress, 82 percent of those surveyed agreed, with 29 percent stating that it should be an immediate priority.
This poll should provide Congress with all the encouragement it needs to act on pending whistleblower bills addressing private sector corruption, like H.R.864. If passed, this bill could prove a powerful tool for greater accountability in the fishing industry and have a powerful impact on curbing the illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing that threatens marine life around the globe.
Frequently Asked Questions About the Wildlife Conservation and Anti-Trafficking Act
Q: What is the Wildlife Conservation and Anti-Trafficking Act?
The Wildlife Conservation and Anti-Wildlife Trafficking Act is a bill that was reintroduced to the U.S. House of Representatives by Reps. John Garamendi (D-CA) and Don Young (R-AK). It is a landmark, bipartisan piece of legislation that would enhance the ability of the federal government to detect and enforce wildlife crimes, thereby helping to reverse the global extinction crisis.
It is expansive in scope, with provisions pertaining to animals, timber, and fish among other wildlife.
Q: What does the Wildlife Conservation and Anti-Trafficking Act do?
The Act would strengthen U.S. capacity, laws, and inter-agency coordination to better combat wildlife trafficking. The bill is powerful for three main reasons:
- It creates strong incentives for whistleblowers around the world to report trafficking crimes.
- It enhances laws that can be used to prosecute wildlife traffickers and makes trafficking an organized crime criminal activity under the RICO and Travel Acts.
- It mandates that all of the fines and penalties collected from successful prosecutions be used for wildlife conservation efforts worldwide.
Q: How are whistleblowers protected under the Wildlife Conservation and Anti-Trafficking Act?
The bill mandates confidentiality and anonymity for whistleblowers throughout the world, enabling them to safely report trafficking crimes. It incentivizes reporting by requiring rewards be paid to qualified whistleblowers whose original information results in a successful prosecution. Finally, it requires the responsible federal agencies to establish Whistleblower Offices to ensure whistleblower concerns are properly investigated and rewarded.
Q: How does the bill enhance enforcement?
The bill makes trafficking a predicate offense under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) and Travel Acts. RICO is the most powerful anti-corruption law in the United States, and has been used successfully throughout the country to target and crush organized crime. Penalties recovered from successful prosecution under these laws would be mandated to go directly into conservation efforts. The bill is structured so that the prosecution of wildlife crime would result in fund generation for the protection of wildlife, at no additional expense to the U.S. taxpayer.
Q: How does the bill help wildlife conservation?
The law mandates that all the fines and penalties recovered from the traffickers be used solely for enhancing wildlife conservation worldwide. The law has the potential to generate millions of dollars, which would then be invested into the protection and restoration of critically endangered species. Similar whistleblower-based laws, such as the False Claims Act and the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, have brought in millions of dollars annually into government coffers.
Q: Where can I learn more about the importance of this bill?
The National Whistleblower Center has released a report explaining the importance of this bill and demonstrating its potential effects to fight insidious wildlife crime.