Given that this is a trade of the rich, rich countries and rich companies, in turn shows why there is no excuse for a regulator like CITES to have not been modernised or adequately resourced over recent decades.
Of the top countries/territories listed as benefiting from this trade, those still using the CITES 1970s paper-permit system are: Hong Kong, Japan, Spain, Italy, India, Germany, UK, Qatar, Brazil, Netherlands and New Zealand.
Without regulatory transparency there is no proof of sustainability, providing companies and whole countries the opportunity to ‘greenwash’ the volume and value of this trade. Whatever the current spin, the reality is that there isn’t any genuine ‘proof’ that the sustainable use model has worked, or can work, to protect endangered and exotic species.
This trade is purely run for profit, with no regard for the originating ecosystems, range countries, CITES obligations or the extinction crisis. If these stupendously rich countries and companies won’t cover the cost of implementing a safe, transparent and traceable trade system that eliminates (or at least decisively curtails) the illegal trade and laundering, then we should demand No Transparency, No Trade when it comes to the legal trade in endangered and exotic species.
Currently, the world is moving in the opposite direction. Just one example of this is businesses pushing their sustainability credentials and creating evermore glossy sustainability reports, while in parallel lobbying governments to ease restrictions on this trade and keep the information, they deem as ‘sensitive’, hidden from public scrutiny. And governments are kowtowing to this lobbying. Lobbying by both listed and private companies, to the US government have had the result that since 2016 the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has refused to disclose any data to allow conservation groups to track or fully evaluate how the U.S. trade is endangering wildlife at home or abroad. The agency freely released the data for decades until it stopped doing so in 2014. All this means that the Centre for Biological Diversity is currently suing the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for failing to release data on the wildlife traded across U.S. borders. The United States imports millions of animals, plants and wildlife products each year from around the globe, and these imports are all tracked by the Service.
In closing, what makes this even more galling is that the countries who are the biggest profiteers from this trade are also some of the world’s biggest enablers of financial secrecy. The top 10 biggest enablers of financial secrecy in the world currently are: