2015-2016 Annual Summary Wildlife Enforcement Directorate
Effective and efficient enforcement of wildlife cannot be done alone. Why? Because birds migrate, animals cross borders and plants, animals and wood products are traded.
Partnering with other law enforcement agencies and intelligence networks is critical to our work. When we work together we can be more effective, sophisticated and responsive, and better equipped to target the worst wildlife offenders.
Partnerships make us stronger. The following paragraphs describe what we did this year to foster our partnerships.
WED’s Leadership at INTERPOL
Wildlife and forestry poaching and trafficking continues to be among the most lucrative crimes worldwide. In fact, the illegal trafficking of fauna is estimated to be valued between US $7 billion and $23 billion globally. When flora, including lumber, is added to the total, the number increases to an estimated US $57 billion to $175 billion (UN Environment Programme / INTERPOL).
Illegal trafficking threatens economies, ecosystems and security in many countries. Poaching and trafficking often involves vulnerable charismatic megafauna, including Canadian species. Further, it is estimated that between one fifth and one third of the world’s paper comes from illegally sourced wood. These worldwide phenomena impact Canada, with its highly regulated sectors, both economically and ecologically.
WED is proud to be a leader in the international actions taken to combat illegal trafficking of flora and fauna through its involvement in INTERPOL’s Wildlife Crime Working Group.
In November 2015, Sheldon Jordan, Director General of WED and current Chair of the Wildlife Crime Working Group, led the working group’s annual meeting at the newly-opened INTERPOL Global Complex for Innovation in Singapore. This meeting allowed for countries to exchange intelligence, share best practices and plan international enforcement operations.
The meeting was attended by about 50 countries and 30 civil society organizations. It provided advice and direction on enforcement and compliance issues to other members of the International Coalition to Combat Wildlife Crime, which, in addition to INTERPOL, also includes the CITES Secretariat, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the World Customs Organization and the World Bank.
At this meeting, Canada was re-elected for a second term as Chair of the Working Group, along with an executive team comprised of members from Honduras, Kenya, Malawi, South Africa, Switzerland, Thailand and the United States.
Presentations from this meeting may be viewed at: http://www.interpol.int/Crime-areas/Environmental-crime/Environmental-Compliance-and-Enforcement-Committee/Wildlife-Crime-Working-Group
Conference on Wildlife & Forest Crime in the Americas
Over three quarters of Canada’s wildlife trade is within the Americas. Most of our migratory birds spend winter south of us. Our country has strong economic and cultural ties not only with our neighbours in the United States and Mexico, but also the Caribbean and increasingly South and Central America. In October 2015, Lonny Coote, Regional Director for Ontario, represented Canada at the first Regional Conference on Wildlife & Forest Crime: Law Enforcement in the Americas. This conference was held in Cancun, Mexico, and was organized by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the Mexican Federal Attorney for Environmental Protection (PROFEPA) and the World Bank.
Along with Canada, thirteen countries from Central and Latin America attended this landmark conference. At the conference, countries committed to a list of fourteen principles and an action plan that aims to better organize local efforts to combat wildlife crime in the region.
Forensic Analysis of Wildlife
WED has developed two important partnerships with ECCC’s S&T Branch laboratories to support its on-going need for species identification. This year we’ve seen these partnerships grow:
ECCC’s Pacific and Yukon Laboratory for Environmental Testing (PYLET) provides molecular-based applications to identify unknown species. The toxicology department is a centre of excellence for toxicogenomics analysis, and since 2013 the lab has identified more than twenty-five species in direct support of WED’s enforcement investigations. More recently, the lab acquired a next-generation DNA gene sequencer which supports enforcement operations. Exciting progress has been made using the equipment to identify polar bear subpopulations and to differentiation between individual animals, significantly aiding WED’s enforcement efforts. PYLET is one of only six wildlife forensics laboratories in the world to have obtained full ISO certification.
For the past 15 years, the Environmental Toxicology section (ETOX) at PYLET has incorporated molecular analysis and has successfully developed molecular-based protocols for microarray analysis, bacterial source tracking and species identification. Since testing began, ETOX has analyzed over 120 wildlife and plant samples for WED, leading to the identification of zebrafish, Glo Fish®, African lion, fin whale, black bear, ivory palm, shark fin, rhino horn, and elephant ivory, including from forest, Asian and bush elephants.
Over the past year, ETOX has undertaken important work to support WED by testing illegally imported shark fin. This is commonly imported due to its cultural significance and supposed medicinal properties. There are 8 species of shark listed in CITES, and due to highly controversial harvesting and processing techniques, importers are sometimes unaware of the species of shark they are importing. To support WED, ETOX randomly sampled 16 shark fins from a shipment containing approximately 400 processed fins declared to be Blue Shark. Findings showed that amongst the 16 random samples, there appeared to be eight different species of shark – none of which were Blue Shark. Using this sampling method, WED is now working with PYLET scientists and shark fin specialists in the US to compile an identification guide for processed fins to assist with visual identification in the field.
Worldwide, Crime Stoppers® is known for its work in helping link communities and police, through both its outreach programs and local tip lines. In March 2016, staff from WED attended a symposium sponsored by Crime Stoppers of Ontario® to address illegal trade of wildlife in that province. As a result, both organizations have embarked on a one year pilot project to work together to find ways to curb environmental crime.
Operation Nunakput is an annual marine patrol of the Mackenzie River, its delta and the coastal waters of the Beaufort Sea.
The Mackenzie River is the largest and longest river system in Canada, measuring a total of 1,738 km from source to end. It flows through a vast, isolated region of forest and tundra within Northwest Territories, with tributaries from three provinces.
This year’s patrol launched from the community of Hay River and finished in Tuktoyaktuk. Aboard were officers from EB, RCMP, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, and the Canadian Forces.
The purpose of the patrol was to:
maintain and enhance operational readiness in a marine environment;
respond to calls for service/complaints;
participate in training exercises and scenarios;
conduct community engagement.
Several of WED’s wildlife officers participated in the operation and travelled a total of 3925 km onboard to conduct inspections of remote areas, follow-up on complaints, engage with local communities and gather intelligence on suspected illegal activities.
Communities visited during the patrol include: Hay River, Fort Providence, Fort Simpson, Tulita, Norman Wells, Fort Good Hope, Tsiigehtchic, Fort MacPherson, Aklavik, Inuvik, and Tuktoyaktuk.
In September 2015, the Enforcement Branch was invited for a second consecutive year to travel aboard the HMCS Shawinigan to participate in a 15-day operation through the Northwest Passage.
During this operation, named Qimmiq, wildlife officers completed inspections under the MBCA and the CWA of remote, protected areas located in the Canadian Arctic. This included inspections of the Prince Leopold Island Migratory Bird Sanctuary and the Polar Bear Pass National Wildlife Area.
The operation departed from south end of Cornwallis Island near Resolute Bay, Nunavut and finished in the territorial capital of Iqualuit. One tanker vessel was observed inside a national wildlife area and was directed to alter course to exit it. Post-operational analysis of intelligence resulted in four warnings being sent to ship owners for allegedly being unlawfully in protected areas in the Arctic.
WED’s participation in Operation Qimmiq provided an important opportunity to work with other agencies in the North and exchange information about this remote and difficult-to-access area.
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