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Macau lacks effective wildlife trade governance, says British NGO

TRAFFIC, an environmental non-government organisation from the U.K., expects imports of wildlife regulated under the Washington Convention into Macau will continue to rise.

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UPDATED: 22 Dec 2023, 5:44 am

A report issued by TRAFFIC, an environmental non-government organisation from the U.K., expects imports of wildlife regulated under the Washington Convention into Macau will continue to rise.

The report determined that imports of certain endangered species into Macau had about doubled in the past decade, and yet further growth is expected. As a result, the NGO is urging the Macau government to implement “stronger legislation, enforcement,” and promote awareness of the situation.

The Washington Convention, officially known as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), is a multilateral treaty intended to protect endangered plants and animals.

The treaty, of which the People’s Republic of China is a signatory, was drawn up so that the trade and consumption of wild animals and plants would not threaten the survival of these species.

About 9,600 items of CITES-listed species were imported into Macau per year in the period from 2005-2010. However, in the next five years, it rose to around 18,200 items per year. The types of imports include reptiles, plants and timber products for use in leather goods, household ornaments and furniture.

The TRAFFIC report encouraged local law-enforcement bodies to be better trained so they can more accurately identify different species. The NGO also recommends that the latest tools and techniques be introduced to the law-enforcement bodies so that they can better perform these tasks.

The report agrees that there has been a serious inflation recorded in the imports to Macau since 2010. It notes that the quantity imported each year remained “fairly static, but their value soaring from around USD44 million in 2005 to USD160 million by 2016.”

Some 86% of the trade is in live fish, including carps, groupers, eels and tilapia. The report stated that the fish imports were mainly for local consumption by the city’s population, but did not factor in the 35 million annual visitors to Macau last year.

Macau was found to be the third-largest destination market for shark fins by value, the report stated.

“Any seafood restaurant in Macau is likely to have a large variety of shark fin dishes on the menu, but the trade in shark products currently lacks adequate oversight and traceability, leading to unsustainable practices that are decimating shark populations worldwide,” said Wilson Lau, co- author of the report.

Food establishments that serve shark fin dishes can easily be seen in various districts in Macau. In tourist areas, there are even eateries that focus solely on the dish.

Nonetheless, many hotel chains that operate business in Macau have pledged to stop serving shark fin in their food and beverage outlets.

As for the ivory trade, the NGO commended work conducted by the Macau government to discourage the sale of ivory and ivory products. Legislative changes have also been passed to further shrink the market.

In 2015, there were 22 shops in Macau that traded in ivory, but in just two years, that number fell to six.

The NGO is not overly optimistic about the situation, however. Given the mainland has recently closed the market for the ivory trade and neighbouring Hong Kong will stop the trade in 2021, the NGO worries that the trade will be transferred to Macau.

As such, the NGO offers three additional suggestions to the Macau government in terms of the further implementation of CITES in Macau.

Among the suggestions is that laws in Macau should be tightened. Compared with those on the mainland and in Hong Kong, Macau has a laxer penalty regarding the trade of CITES-listed species. This is failing to adequately deter traffickers from operating in Macau, the report suggested.

Also suggested was better regulation of the market for shark fin, including the enhancement of traceability systems that help law-enforcement bodies to work according to CITES regulations.

According to Macau Daily Times, TRAFFIC also encourages the government to promote responsible consumption by educating people about the illegality of protected items, health and safety issues, and conservation concerns. The NGO believes that this will help to drive market changes.

UPDATED: 22 Dec 2023, 5:44 am

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