The Role of the National Whistleblower Center Advocating for Wildlife Whistleblowers
The National Whistleblower Center works educate potential whistleblowers about how to participate in whistleblower programs focused on wildlife trafficking and illegal fishing, provides legal assistance to whistleblowers, and advocates for stronger whistleblower protections in Congress and other policy-making forums. Whistleblowers are a powerful force in the fight against wildlife trafficking. Leveraging this system of current laws could lead the way to revolutionize the detection of wildlife crime, radically increase effective law enforcement, and help protect the biodiversity of our oceans. As part of our work, it has become clear that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, which has the mandate from Congress to implement and manage some of the wildlife whistleblower programs currently on the books, requires reform.
Both the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS), as part of the Department of Interior, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), as part of the Department of Commerce, currently are responsible for implementing and managing wildlife whistleblower laws. Yet these programs are in need of deep reform. The National Whistleblower Center is proud to be part of the process for building on FWS and NOAA’s current foundations and creating a truly effective and efficient wildlife whistleblower programs.
The National Whistleblower Center used Freedom of Information Act (“FOIA”) requests to conduct an in-depth analysis of Fish and Wildlife Service’s whistleblower program and its payment of rewards from 2003 to 2016. All of the documents produced as part of the FOIA request and pertaining to wildlife whistleblower cases can be accessed here:
Using these documents, the National Whistleblower Center published a report explaining how the Departments of Commerce and Interior should implement the GAO’s recommendations, drawing upon the lessons learned from the cases analyzed from the FOIA production documents. NWC provided the agencies with this report to assist in their reform process. The report is required reading for anyone who wants to have an in-depth understanding of how these laws should and could work. Read the updated report here.
The U.S. Government Accountability Office Agreed: Reform is Needed
After a year-long investigative process into the current implementation of wildlife whistleblower laws, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (“GAO”) vindicated the position of the National Whistleblower Center. In May 2018, GAO issued a report which demonstrates that U.S. government agencies must take action to better enforce and combat the illegal wildlife trade, including illegal fishing. “This report reinforces the urgent need for Congressional action,” said Stephen M. Kohn, Chairman of the Board of NWC. The report proves that the current wildlife trafficking and extinction crisis is untenable, and that something must be done urgently. The NWC was interviewed by and had continued discussions with the GAO about this report. The full text of the GAO report can be viewed here.
Both the Department of Commerce (for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) and the Department of Interior (for the Fish and Wildlife Service), which implement the current laws on the books, have concurred with the GAO’s recommendations. This means that they will be moving forward with changing their current policies on the basis of the GAO’s recommendations – exactly what the National Whistleblower Center has advocated! To see the progress of these agencies in implementing the GAO’s recommendations, click on the recommendations section of the report’s page here.
Learn More About Wildlife Whistleblowers
- Chairman of the Board of the National Whistleblower Center, Stephen M. Kohn, is an internationally recognized expert on whistleblower law. He wrote the article “Monetary Rewards for Wildlife Whistleblowers: A Game-Changer in Wildlife Trafficking Detection and Deterrence,” published by the Environmental Law Reporter. The article highlights the need for a qui tam law to fight wildlife trafficking and has been used as a resource by many aiming to halt wildlife trafficking.
- Learn about the NWC’s Global Wildlife Whistleblower Program and its confidential transnational reporting system, which protects whistleblowers’ identities and educates them about their rights to obtain rewards for reporting wildlife crimes.
Confidentially Report Wildlife Trafficking
The NWC’s Global Wildlife Whistleblower Program is a secure worldwide web-based platform designed to educate and incentivize potential whistleblowers in order to dramatically increase the number of high-quality confidential reports essential to detect wildlife crimes and enforce the laws prohibiting illegal trafficking worldwide. Our program works as a confidential transnational reporting system which protects whistleblowers’ identities and educates them about their rights to obtain rewards for reporting wildlife crimes.
The National Whistleblower Center also provides legal assistance to whistleblowers with original information about illegal wildlife trafficking through our Legal Assistance Program. NWC works with an independent public interest law firm, the National Whistleblower Legal Defense and Education Fund, which provides a secure intake form that allows whistleblower to submit evidence of wildlife crime and information about their case on a confidential basis. Once submitted, the intake form will be reviewed by a highly qualified whistleblower attorney in our Cooperating Attorney Network. You can learn more about our legal program here.