Suva, 15 August 2023 – Authorities in Fiji have recommended priority actions to strengthen the enforcement of laws prohibiting the illegal trade of endangered wildlife, marine and timber products, and related crimes in Fiji. The actions, identified over the course of a two-day workshop, include proactive enforcement, data sharing, building capacity within national authorities to implement a crime scene to court approach for wildlife, forestry and fisheries crimes, and address these as serious crimes, as well as establishing a wildlife enforcement network and standard operating procedures to promote inter-agency coordination.
Guided by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), representatives from the Fiji Department of Environment, Ministry of Home Affairs and the Fiji Police Force, Fiji Revenue and Customs Services, Fisheries, Forestry, Fiji Biosecurity, Fiji Navy, Public Prosecutors, the National Trust of Fiji and Nature Fiji- Maraqeti Viti, successfully conducted a comprehensive self-assessment. They evaluated national efforts to combat wildlife, forest and fisheries crimes using the Indicator Framework developed by the International Consortium on Combating Wildlife Crime (ICCWC).
The workshop provided an excellent opportunity to identify gaps and prioritize goals for improving law enforcement capacity and efficiency.
Opening the workshop last Wednesday, H.E Marie C. Damour, Ambassador of the United States to Fiji, Kiribati, Nauru, Tonga, and Tuvalu, stated that “global wildlife trafficking is a multi-billion-dollar, transnational criminal activity that threatens security, undermines the rule of law, fuels corruption, supports organized criminal networks, robs communities of legitimate economic livelihoods, pushes species to the brink of extinction, and spreads disease. It’s a sad truth that in many countries, wildlife trafficking is not treated as the serious crime that it is – the penalties imposed on convicted traffickers are often much lower than the profits they can make. As UNODC’s Wildlife Crime Report stated, wildlife criminal cases often start and end with the seizures. More work is needed to fully understand the frequency and scale of wildlife and forestry crime so that together we can be proactive in stopping criminals from profiting from this trade and use those illicit gains to fuel other criminal activity.”
These sentiments were also echoed by UNODC Regional Coordinator for Crimes that Affect the Environment, Ms. Jenna Dawson- Faber. “The illegal trafficking of wild species is not only detrimental to our shared environment but is a lucrative business that lines the pockets of transnational organized criminal groups. As a result, today there are many species – including species endemic to Fiji – that are in danger from poaching, illegal trade, human-wildlife conflict, habitat degradation and loss, and also from climate change. These risks are only compounded by other social, economic, and environmental pressures that can undermine sustainable development, food security and the rule of law.” She highlighted that due to its location at the heart of the Pacific, Fiji’s strategic location and good connectivity make it an attractive place for organized criminal groups to set up shop and use the country as a critical transit hub.
Fiji receives technical support from UNODC through its Global Programme on Crimes that Affect the Environment thanks to financial support from the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs of the U.S. Department of State. The U.S. government also supports the work of two Embassy Science Fellows from the U.S. Geological Survey, who are focusing on dry forest restoration and iguana conservation in Fiji, in partnership with the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance and the National Trust of Fiji. The work of these Science Fellows helps protect the highly endangered Fijian crested iguana and promote U.S. and Fiji bilateral collaboration on regional anti-wildlife tracking. In the next few months, the UNODC and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will conduct joint training courses for law enforcement and border agencies on wildlife crime scene investigation, and wildlife seizures.
Click here to learn more about UNODC’s Global Programme on Crimes that Affect the Environment.
For further information on our work, you may contact our Asia Pacific Coordinator, Ms. Jenna Dawson-Faber at unodc-wlfc[@]un.org