EDN guest blog: The accelerating rate of species extinction | Earth Day Network

By: Scott A. Hajost, Managing Director, Global Wildlife Whistleblower Program at the National Whistleblower Center

Trafficking, poaching, pollution and other environmental crimes play a huge role in accelerating rate of species extinction. Increasingly, environmental advocates are using U.S. whistleblower laws to target illegal wildlife trafficking. These wildlife laws also offer monetary rewards for whistleblowers who provide information that leads to successful enforcement actions. US laws can also be applied to combating IUU- illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing.

The crimes covered by these laws include buying or selling illegal wildlife products, importing or exporting illegal wildlife products and laundering money earned from trafficking.

The NWC’s Global Wildlife Whistleblower Program was designed to encourage high-quality confidential reports that can be essential to detecting crimes like these. The program offers a secure online platform designed to incentivize potential whistleblowers. The 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. Here are some of the U.S. laws that provide whistleblowers with protection and financial rewards:

  • The Lacey Act offers incentives to anyone who discloses information about wildlife crimes.
  • The Fish and Wildlife Improvement Act ensures that rewards can be paid to whistleblowers who report violations to the United States Fish and Wildlife Service or by the National Marine Fisheries Service relating to fish, wildlife or plants.
  • Other laws with similar provisions include the Endangered Species Act and the Rhinoceros and Tiger Conservation Act.
  • Additionally, whistleblowers who report illegal wildlife trafficking may also be covered under other, more traditional, whistleblower reward laws, such as the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (bribery of foreign officials) or the False Claims Act (false customs declarations and other frauds relating to government payments).

These crimes do not need to take place in the U.S. to be subject to U.S. law. They could involve international firms, such as shipping companies, that are publicly traded. The laws also apply to goods destined for or exiting the U.S., persons with U.S. bank accounts, or use of U.S. bank accounts or other financial institutions.

The landmark Wildlife Conservation and Anti-Trafficking Act reintroduced in the US House of Representatives this year by Representatives Garamendi and Young would radically increase wildlife crime enforcement and activate whistleblowers around the globe. It also contains provisions on IUU fishing and whistleblowers. Enactment of this Bill would make a critical contribution to tackling wildlife trafficking and IUU fishing including reinforcing and promoting whistleblowing as a potent tool in this fight.

As Earth Day Network recognizes, threatened and endangered species can still recover. These wildlife laws offer rewards and tools that can be used to hasten that recovery.

Scott A. Hajost
Managing Director
Global Wildlife Whistleblower Program
National Whistleblower Center