The news we’ve helped to make and break in 2014!

“The reason for their success is not just the information gathered, it is the way they use it as a political lobbying tool. One of Britain’s most effective conservation groups”

– BBC Wildlife Magazine

 

Regular supporters and followers of EIA’s work will know what makes us so effective ­­– we’re a small team of dedicated, tireless campaigners and front line investigators working to expose environmental crime and exploitation, and using our findings to drive change.

In 2014, we celebrated our 30th anniversary but in other respects it was a typically hectic and successful year as we continued to uncover ongoing problems and expose new ones; here are just a few of the highlights from a busy 12 months:

 

World leaders getting serious about illegal wildlife trade

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February saw an encouraging international focus on wildlife crime with the landmark London Conference on Illegal Wildlife Trade providing strong indications that world leaders are finally getting serious about tackling international wildlife crime.

EIA released the new report In Cold Blood – Combating organised wildlife crime just days before the Conference, examining wildlife crime case histories and highlighting the lessons to be learnt for better enforcement.

Afterwards, Executive Direct Mary Rice said: “EIA is particularly pleased to see the Declaration agreed at the conclusion of this Conference committing countries to a series of meaningful actions which, if implemented, will reverse the low-risk/high-profit nature of wildlife crime.”

We will be looking for evidence of tangible implementation of the London Conference agreement by the time of the next Conference in Botswana in early 2015.

 

Partial EU ban on F-gases is a significant win for the climate

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Long years of meticulous work and lobbying paid off in March when the European Parliament adopted a compromise agreement to phase-down the use of a group of super greenhouse gases known as hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), or fluorinated gases (F-gases), in a review of the EU F-Gas Regulation.

In the face of stiff opposition and alarmist lobbying from vested interests in the chemicals industry, Parliament negotiators secured important improvements while holding the line on other critical measures that will help European transition to climate-friendly alternatives.

“This is a hugely encouraging lead from Europe in the fight against climate change,” said Clare Perry, Head of EIA’s Global Environment Campaign.

 

UN court rules Japan’s scientific whaling must end – and internet giant Rakuten pulls the plug on whale sales

March closed with a hugely significant ruling from the UN International Court of Justice (ICJ) against Japan’s sham ‘scientific’ whaling in the Antarctic.

Australia took Japan to the ICJ in 2010, alleging it was intentionally taking advantage of a loophole in the 1986 commercial whaling ban by claiming it was killing the whales for scientific research. The Court ruled overwhelmingly in favour of Australia.

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Just days ahead of the ICJ ruling, EIA launched a new report and campaign film exposing the extent of whale meat and ivory sales by Rakuten, the internet retail giant which also owns Rakuten Shopping (formerly Buy.com) in the US, Play.com in the UK, PriceMinister in France, shopping sites in Germany, Austria, Brazil and other countries, Canadian e-book reader Kobo and popular chat app Viber, as well as being a major shareholder in Pinterest.

The ICJ decision gave Rakuten to ideal opportunity to save face and still (partially) do the right thing when announced in early April it was terminating sales of whale products through its Japanese marketplace Rakuten Ichiba as a result of the court’s ruling, even though it did not address whale meat sales.

Rakuten must now take the next step and ban ivory ads to help protect Africa’s elephants from the ongoing devastation of poaching.

 

China’s furniture craze drives Siam rosewood to extinction

In a major new Forest report in May, we revealed how Siamese rosewood has been illegally logged to the brink of extinction in the Mekong region to feed a voracious demand for luxury hongmu furniture in China.

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Routes of Extinction: The corruption and violence destroying Siamese rosewood in the Mekong exposed a multi-billion dollar industry fuelled by high level corruption and recklessly destroying the increasingly scarce species on which it thrives.

Siamese rosewood has become so scarce and valuable that logging it is now more akin to wildlife poaching; the tools of the trade are chainsaws, guns and even rocket-propelled grenades, armed violence is commonplace, and methamphetamines, aka yaba, are regularly used as both a stimulant and payment for loggers from border communities blighted by drug addiction.

“The consequences for Thailand – both environmental and social – are very serious,” said EIA Forest Campaign Team Leader Faith Doherty. “Unless swift and decisive action is taken to stem this bloody trade, we could well be looking at the extinction of Siamese rosewood in a matter of a very few years.”

 

Are you ready to go plastic bag free for the oceans?

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July 3 was International Bag Free Day, part of the Bag Free World initiative which is seeking to eliminate single-use plastic bags.

EIA, as part of our work to tackle the issue of marine debris and its negative impacts on ocean environments, asking people not just to go plastic bag free for a day, but to do so for life.

To that end, our film unit produced a short campaign film to help spread the message.

 

Myanmar rosewood stolen to feed China’s furniture craze

A briefing in July revealed some of the wider impacts of China’s surging demand for precious rosewood, specifically how Myanmar’s rosewood species are heading for imminent commercial extinction.

Myanmar’s Rosewood Crisis warned that if current trends persist unaddressed, the two most targeted hongmu species in Myanmar – tamalan and padauk – could be logged to commercial extinction within as little as three years.

Virtually overnight, Myanmar has become the biggest hongmu log supplier to China worldwide, the vast bulk of this timber stolen and smuggled into China across its land border with Myanmar.

 

Threat of tiger farms finally comes under closer scrutiny

Captive tiger in China, filmed during EIA undercover visit (c) EIA

Captive tiger in China, filmed during EIA undercover visit (c) EIA

Tiger farming has long been pushed to the margins of the UN Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), so EIA’s Tigers Campaign was pleased to see the issue back in the spotlight in July and recognised as a serious threat to the future of wild tigers.

The 65th Meeting of the Standing Committee (SC65) of CITES included key outcomes for tigers and other Asian big cats.

EIA Lead Campaigner Debbie Banks said: “Given our investigation findings into the licensed trade in captive-bred tiger skins in China, we are especially delighted that domestic as well as international trade in parts and products of tigers is going to be subject to greater scrutiny.”

During one session at SC65, China admitted “we do not ban skin, we ban bone”, although it was subsequently ambiguous with regard to how tiger skins are used.

The significance of the statement “we do not ban skin, we ban bone” is that previously China has merely confirmed that it labels skins or that skins are “well-maintained”. This was the first time the country has admitted in an open meeting that it does not ban the use of tiger skins.

 

China’s illegal timber imports ransack Mozambique’s forests

China’s insatiable demand for timber was back in the news at the end of July with the new EIA report First Class Crisis: China’s Criminal and Unsustainable Intervention in Mozambique’s Miombo Forests revealing that a staggering 93 per cent of logging in Mozambique during 2013 was illegal.

Research, undercover investigations and analysis conducted by EIA from 2013-14 demonstrate that the key driver of forest crime in Mozambique is ongoing demand from China.

“The staggering level of illegal logging and timber smuggling for the Chinese market has put harvesting volumes way beyond sustainable levels, despite claims to the contrary by Mozambican officials,” said EIA Forest Campaigner Jago Wadley.

 

Governments & retailers must act to halt Iceland’s whale slaughter

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In September, we returned to our long-running campaign to end Iceland’s ongoing slaughter of endangered fin whales with the release of the joint report Slayed in Iceland on the eve of the 65th meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in Portorož, Slovenia.

HB Grandi whaling logoSlayed in Iceland strongly urged the IWC, governments and businesses dealing with Icelandic companies linked to whaling to take action to compel Iceland to cease commercial whaling and trade.

The focus stayed on Icelandic whaling during the IWC meeting when a formal diplomatic protest, known as a démarche, was delivered to the Icelandic Government in Reykjavik, signed by the 28 EU Member States, the USA, Australia, Brazil, Israel, Mexico and New Zealand. In addition, Monaco associated with the statement.

We continued to keep the pressure on in October with an action alert targeted at Icelandic seafood giant HB Grandi over its clear links to Icelandic whaling.

 

30 game-changing years of exposing environmental crime

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Mid-September saw the Environmental Investigation Agency celebrate 30 years of working on the front lines to expose environmental crime and exploitation.

We formally marked the anniversary with an auction of wildlife photography and the first screening of the commemorative film Balaenoptera Legacy.

Early in 2015, we anticipate unveiling updates to our website – including improved functionality for better display on tablets and iPhones.

 

Retailers must shut the door on open fridges to fight climate change – and cut bills!

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October saw the release of The Chilling Facts VI, the latest in a series of reports which this year revealed that the take-up of climate-friendly refrigeration by supermarket chains is spreading faster and more widely than ever.

Alongside the good news, we still had concerns that major retailers are missing an easy climate win – and the chance to significantly lower their energy bills – by shying away from fitting doors on refrigeration units.

“Refrigeration units with doors mean customers don’t have to scurry uncomfortably along aisles in near-Arctic conditions and, as they require much smaller quantities of refrigerant, they are easier and safer to run on natural refrigerants,” said EIA Senior Climate Campaigner Fionnuala Walravens.

 

Chinese criminal syndicates & corruption behind Tanzania’s elephant meltdown

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A bold new report in November revealed that Chinese-led criminal gangs are conspiring with corrupt Tanzanian officials to traffic huge amounts of ivory, a trade which has caused half of Tanzania’s elephants to be poached in the past five years – even diplomatic visits by high-level Chinese Government delegations have been used to smuggle ivory.

Vanishing Point – Criminality, Corruption and the Devastation of Tanzania’s Elephants was released on the eve of a major regional wildlife crime summit in Tanzania and grabbed front page headlines around the world.

EIA Executive Director Mary Rice warned: “This report shows clearly that without a zero tolerance approach, the future of Tanzania’s elephants and its tourism industry are extremely precarious.”

 

Loopholes & ODS illegal trade threaten ozone layer recovery

Also released in November, the briefing New Trends in ODS Smuggling highlighted the growing threat of illegal trade in ozone- depleting substances (ODS).

Far from going away, the threat of black market ODS looms greater than ever and this briefing brought together analysis of trade and emissions data, recent reported seizures and a look at the global refrigerant and feedstock market to highlight some key areas of concern which need to be addressed by the Montreal Protocol.

 

Palm oil plantation crime drives illegal logging in Indonesia

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EIA ended the year with the December release of a new report showing how the clear-cutting of forests to make way for oil palm plantations is driving a wave of illegal logging in Indonesia.

Permitting Crime: How palm oil expansion drives illegal logging in Indonesia revealed how a widespread culture of corruption and poor law enforcement is generating a flood of illicit timber and is fundamentally undermining efforts to bring much-needed reform to the nation’s forestry and timber sectors.

“Illegal logging in oil palm concessions is out of control and Indonesia’s revamped timber laws have completely failed to rein it in,” said EIA Forest Campaigner Tomasz Johnson.

 

On behalf of everybody at EIA, thank-you for your passion, support and activism throughout 2014 – we couldn’t do what we do without you.

 

Paul NewmanPaul Newman
Press & Communications Officer