By The National Law Review
On November 19, the Wildlife Conservation & Anti-Trafficking Act was reintroduced. This groundbreaking bipartisan legislation is aimed at making it easier to catch and prosecute poachers, traffickers, and those involved in the global trade of illegal wildlife and seafood products. It was introduced by Representatives Don Young (R- AK) and John Garamendi (D-CA).
A key feature of this bipartisan bill are the whistleblower provisions which mandate that federal agencies offer monetary awards to individuals who provide original information on wildlife trafficking. Similar laws have revolutionized the detection and prosecution of government contract fraud, tax fraud and securities fraud. It will also provide dedicated funding for wildlife conservation programs at no expense to American taxpayers.
A version of the bill was previously introduced in 2018 and received widespread support from whistleblower advocacy groups and wildlife conservation groups. In 2020, Representative Young spoke about the provisions in the bill which increase protections and incentives for wildlife whistleblowers. Young described whistleblowers as “our eyes and ears on the ground” and “invaluable partners in the fight against illegal hunting and fishing.”
Kohn, Kohn & Colapinto founding partner Stephen M. Kohn described the bill as “the most significant breakthrough in the protection of endangered species in a generation. It closes loopholes that have undermined the prosecution of illegal wildlife traffickers and empowers citizens and NGO’s to play a leading role in the struggle to end the current extinction crisis.”
Kohn further stated that “this law empowers citizens throughout the world to confidentially and anonymously report wildlife crimes and obtain significant monetary rewards. It utilizes the format of the highly successful whistleblower reward laws that were used to crack down on illegal Swiss bank accounts. It makes whistleblower rewards available to anyone, worldwide, who comes forward with knowledge of illegal wildlife trafficking and anonymously and confidentially reports violations.”
In addition to providing whistleblower protection, the law makes wildlife trafficking a predicate offense under federal racketeering and anti-organized crime statutes (RICO and Travel Acts) and mandates that all fines and sanctions collected be placed in special fund for wildlife conservation.
Previous versions of the Wildlife Conservation & Anti-Trafficking Act were endorsed by the National Whistleblower Center (NWC), the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and the Wildlife Trafficking Alliance (WTA).