Wild animal and plant trade and protection act 2020 annual report
International: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, face-to-face meetings for the 31st meeting of the Animals Committee, the 25th meeting of the Plants Committee, and the 73rd meeting of the Standing Committee for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) were cancelled and work was addressed via postal proceduresFootnote 1 . Advancing CITES priorities in the absence of face-to-face meetings was a particular priority for Canada as the North American Regional representative and Chair of the Standing Committee. Additionally, close contact was maintained with the United States and Mexico, our North American partners, to ensure Canadian views were reflected in the Plants Committee and to fulfill our role as the alternate North American Regional representative on the Animals Committee.
Exports: Canadian jurisdictions issued 5,137 CITES export permits and re-export certificates under WAPPRIITA. A reduction in the number of permits issued was seen due to the COVID-19 lockdowns and reduced international travel. The majority of shipments in 2020 were of cultivated American Ginseng and biomedical specimens related to vaccine research.
Imports: Canada issued 155 CITES import permits, which were mainly for the import of old ivory, falcons for breeding purposes and zoo animals. In addition, three import permits were issued for the import of species posing a risk to Canadian ecosystems, including Yellow mongoose and salamanders.
Enforcement: Environment and Climate Change Canada conducted 1,359 inspections under WAPPRIITA. There were 183 violations of WAPPRIITA or its regulations, which resulted in prosecutions, administrative monetary penalties (AMPs totalling $8,900), tickets or warnings. About 2.4% of the inspections focused on Canadian species at high conservation risk or facing a high level of non-compliance with the Act, and 97% focused on foreign species meeting these same criteria of high conservation risk or high level of non-compliance with the Act in Canada.
The Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade
Act (WAPPRIITA) Annual Report fulfills the Minister of the Environment’s obligation, under section 28 of WAPPRIITA, to report annually on the administration of the Act. This report covers the administration of the Act for the year 2020.
This section provides information on WAPPRIITA and outlines the responsibilities of Environment and Climate Change Canada (ECCC) in administering the Act. Subsequent sections discuss the following:
- management of wild animals and plants in trade
- assessing the risk to species from trade
- compliance promotion and enforcement
- international cooperation
1.1 WAPPRIITA and CITES
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) came into force in 1975 and it has been adopted by over 180 countries. CITES sets controls on the trade in and international movement of animal and plant species that are, or may become, threatened with over-exploitation because of trade pressures. Such species are identified by the Parties to the Convention and are listed in one of three appendices to the Convention according to the degree of protection they need.
Species that are threatened with extinction
Species that are not currently threatened but may become so unless trade is restricted
Species included upon request of a country to seek cooperation of other countries
WAPPRIITA and the Wild Animal and Plant Trade Regulations (WAPTR) came into force on May 14, 1996, and provide Canada with the authority to regulate trade in animal and plant species, helping Canada meet its international obligations under CITES.
WAPPRIITA’s main purpose is to protect certain species of animals and plants, by implementing CITES, regulating international and interprovincial trade in animals and plants, and safeguarding Canadian ecosystems from the introduction of harmful species. WAPPRIITA also regulates the interprovincial trade of plants and animals as well as prohibiting the import of species taken, possessed, distributed or transported in contravention of any law of any foreign state.
WAPTR includes authorities to issue permits, provide exemptions to permitting requirements, and to define the animals and plants that are subject to permitting. While the focus is mainly on CITES, WAPTR also has provisions for controlling the import of species which may be deemed injurious to Canadian ecosystems through a permitting regime. Species whose trade is controlled in Canada are listed on the three schedules of the WAPTR.
Includes all animals listed as fauna and all plants listed as flora in the three CITES appendices. These species require permits for import/export unless otherwise exempted.
Lists other plant and animal species which do not necessarily appear in the CITES appendices but require an import permit. These are species that may pose a risk to Canadian ecosystems.
Lists the Schedule I species that are recognized as endangered or threatened within Canada.
1.2 Responsibilities in administering WAPPRIITA
ECCC is responsible for administering WAPPRIITA, and is the designated Management Authority and Scientific Authority for the purpose of CITES.
As the Management Authority, ECCC has overall responsibility for verifying and validating requests for international trade of specimens of animals and plants that are regulated under CITES originating from or destined for Canada. This responsibility includes issuing CITES permits and certificates.
As the Scientific Authority, ECCC has overall responsibility in Canada for determining whether the international trade of a species is detrimental to its survival. This responsibility includes monitoring the international trade of wild animals and plants to and from Canada to ensure that current levels of trade are sustainable.
Fisheries and Oceans Canada is responsible for the issuance of permits and validation of export requests for specimens of CITES-listed aquatic species. Find further information on the roles and responsibilities of federal departments in the implementation and administration of CITES.
ECCC oversees the enforcement of WAPPRIITA, which is carried out in cooperation with other federal agencies, such as the Canada Border Services Agency, and with provincial and territorial wildlife agencies. Border officials play an important role at ports of entry, manually verifying and validating permits, and referring shipments to ECCC personnel for inspection, as required.
ECCC maintains enforcement agreements and memoranda of understanding with Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, British Columbia, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut. Under the agreements and memoranda of understanding, these four provinces and two territories are responsible for enforcing WAPPRIITA with respect to interprovincial wildlife trade within their jurisdictions.
2. Management of wild animals and plants in trade
The effective implementation of CITES depends on international cooperation to regulate cross-border movement of listed species through a global system of permits that are verified at international borders.
2.1 Permitting overview
In Canada, CITES permits are issued pursuant to WAPPRIITA; Schedule I of WAPTR includes all CITES-listed species.
There are different permit requirements depending on the CITES appendix in which a species is listed:
- Appendix I species require both an import and export permit
- Appendix II species require an export permit
- Appendix III species require an export permit or certificate of origin
Table 1 describes the various types of permits and certificates that are issued under WAPPRIITA.
|Type of permit or certificate||Description|
|Import permit||Issued for all specimens of species included in Schedule I of the WAPTR that are also listed in CITES Appendix I. An export permit from the exporting country is also required to authorize the importation into Canada. Import permits are valid for up to one year.|
|Export permit||Issued for all specimens of species included in Schedule I of the WAPTR that are also listed in CITES Appendix I and II to be exported from Canada. An export permit is required for species listed in CITES Appendix III that originate in Canada and were proposed for listing by Canada (for example Walrus). Multiple shipments under a permit can be authorized when the applicant intends to make multiple transactions during the period for which the permit is valid. Export permits are valid for up to six months.|
|Re-export certificate||Issued for all specimens of species included in Schedule I of the WAPTR to be exported from Canada after having been legally imported into Canada at an earlier time. Re-export certificates are valid for up to six months.|
|Certificate of ownership||Issued to authorize frequent cross-border movement of personally owned live CITES-listed animals (also known as a pet passport). Certificates of ownership are valid for up to three years.|
|Temporary movement/travelling exhibition certificate||Issued for specimens that are only temporarily exported from Canada and that will, within a limited amount of time, be returned to Canada. Authorization can be provided for orchestras, museum exhibits or circus specimens that are either pre-Convention, captive‑bred or artificially propagated. Authorization can also be provided for individuals wanting to travel with musical instruments containing parts made from CITES-listed species (for example ivory, Brazilian rosewood). Temporary movement certificates are valid for up to three years.|
|Scientific certificate||Issued for the exchange between CITES-registered scientific institutions of museum, research and herbarium specimens. Scientific certificates are valid for up to three years.|
|Injurious wildlife permit||An injurious wildlife permit is necessary for importing specimens of species posing risks to Canadian ecosystems that are included in Schedule II of the WAPTR. These could be for zoos and scientific institutions; or for the import of fur products or garments.|
WAPPRIITA authorizes exemptions, in specific situations, for the import and export of CITES‑listed species without permits. WAPTR specifies four exemptions: tourist souvenirs, personal effects, household effects, and certain hunting trophies. The hunting trophy exemption applies to fresh, frozen or salted trophies of Black Bear, and Sandhill Crane for American hunters returning to the United States with their trophy harvested in Canada, or for Canadian hunters returning to Canada with their trophy harvested in the United States. Find further information on WAPPRITA exemptions.
Canadian threatened or endangered species listed on Schedule III of the WAPTR are not included in these exemptions and require all necessary CITES permits.
2.1.3 Service standards under WAPPRIITA
ECCC has established service standards for WAPPRIITA permit decisions and the issuance of permits. ECCC’s goal is to provide permit decisions within a certain number of days depending on the permit and to meet these standards for at least 90% of all permit applications. The performance is tracked on a fiscal year basis. This report uses data from April 1, 2020 to March 31, 2021.
Performance targets for all CITES permit categories could not be met; the percentage of permit decisions made within the service standards were 62.1% hunting trophy exports, 93.6% Polar bear exports, and 88.6% for all other permit types. This was as a result of staff primarily working remotely from home starting in mid-March 2020, due to COVID-19 restrictions. CITES permits must be printed on special secure paper, which is kept in the permitting office. These permits must be mailed or sent by courier to the applicant. Alternative permit delivery methods had to be designed, implemented and refined to adjust to remote work. Performance targets were back on track in the second half of the year and expected to continue to remain on track next fiscal year 2021-2022. The Department’s performance against these standards is published in the Service standards and performance targets for protected species trade.
ECCC made 92.3% of the WAPTR injurious wildlife permit decisions within the standard of 70 calendar days. The Department’s performance against this standard is published on the Service standards and performance targets for protected species trade.
2.2 Annual report to CITES
Every country that is Party to CITES is required to submit to the CITES Secretariat a detailed report of what was permitted by that country in a calendar year. This report is due on October 31 of the following year (for example, the 2019 annual report was due on October 31, 2020). The requirements for this annual report can be found in the CITES annual report. Data submitted by all countries Party to CITES can be found in the CITES trade database.
Figure 1 shows highlights of some of the most important exports or re-exports reported in the Canada 2019 CITES annual report. In 2019, Canada issued permits for 350 different CITES-listed species.
|Walrus – tusk or ivory carving||164|
|Narwhal - tusk||368|
|Black Bear - skins, skulls, bodies or trophies||3043|
|Bobcat (mainly U.S. origin)||34552|
|Great White Shark - scientific specimens||45200|
*May include skin, body, rug, trophy, garment or skulls.
|Plants harvested||Ginseng root - grown in Canada - 3,280,241 kg|
|Live specimens - Canadian origin||
Lake Sturgeon - for reintroduction - fertilized eggs –140,000
Falcons - bred in Canada – 484
Aloe plants - grown in Canada – 1,465
Poison Dart frogs - bred in Canada – 2,471
Ponytail Palm - grown in Canada – 762
Boas/pythons - bred in Canada – 3,146
Cacti - grown in Canada – 3,097
|Re-export – large volume trade||
Reptiles (alligator, crocodile, python, lizard)
|Imports – large-volume trade||
2.3 CITES permits issued in 2020
ECCC issues all export permits and re-export certificates for non‑indigenous species. In collaboration with some of the provinces and territories, ECCC issues export permits and re-export certificates for specimens of indigenous species harvested in Canada. Fisheries and Oceans Canada issues the majority of the export permits for CITES-listed aquatic species.
ECCC issues all import permits and other specialized CITES certificates. In addition to CITES-listed species, ECCC issues all import permits for species that may pose a risk to Canadian ecosystems, which are listed on Schedule II of WAPTR.
2.3.1 Export permits and re-export certificates
Export permits are issued for specimens (animals, plants, their parts or derivatives) of CITES-listed species that originate in Canada and are being exported from Canada for the first time.
Re-export certificates are used to track trade in specimens that entered Canada under the authorization of permits issued by foreign states and were then re-exported from Canada.
Table 2 shows the number of export permits and re-export certificates issued in 2020 by Canadian CITES permitting offices, which totalled 5,137.
|Canadian jurisdiction||Number of export permits and re-export certificates issued||Percentage of total export permits and re-export certificates issued (percentages are rounded)|
|Environment and Climate Change Canada||4,296||83.6%|
|Fisheries and Oceans Canada||134||2.6%|
The number of permits issued is not indicative of trade volumes, because there is not a one-to-one relationship between permits issued and specimens of species on the permit. Each export permit or re-export certificate can authorize the export of multiple specimens or species. Each species and their parts or derivatives is listed on a permit. In the case of export of biomedical samples, for example, a permit could have hundreds of individual specimens listed (such as blood, serum, microscope slides, and paraffin blocks). In other cases, there may be few specimens listed on the permit, but large quantities for each specimen (for example hundreds of Bobcat skins from a fur auction).
When a species is protected under CITES, a permit is required for all specimens of that species (unless some exemptions apply). A specimen can be the live species, parts or derivatives of the species, or finished products made from those species. There are over 35,000 species listed in CITES with approximately 29,000 of those species being plants (such as orchids, cacti, and rosewood). While there is a minimal number of species listed in CITES which are indigenous to Canada, many foreign species are imported into Canada and either re-exported as is, bred or propagated in Canada, or transformed into finished products in Canada.
In 2020, Canada issued export permits and re-export certificates for the following purposes using the transaction codes as defined in CITES Resolution 12.3Footnote 2 .
- hunting trophies
- personal use
- scientific research
- commercial purposes
- biomedical research
Figure 2 shows the percentage of distribution of export permits and re-export certificates, by purpose of transaction, issued in 2020. Figure 3 shows the percentage of distribution, by purpose of transaction, of export permits and re-export certificates issued between 2011 and 2020.
Figure 2 is a pie chart that presents the percentage of CITES export permits and re-export certificates issued in 2020, by purpose of transaction: 38 percent for hunting trophies (1723); 25 percent for commercial purposes (1391); 15 percent for personal use (706); 16 percent for biomedical research (881); 4% for breeding purposes (317); 1 percent for scientific research (41); 1 percent for other (78).
Purpose of transactions for export and re-export permits are relatively constant from year to year.
The “Other” category includes exhibitions (12), zoos (47), exhibitions (12), reintroduction in the wild (12), law enforcement (6) and educational (1).
|Year||Hunting trophies||Commercial purposes||Personal Use||Scientific Research||Biomedical Research||*Other||Breeding|
The “Other” category for 2020 includes scientific research, exhibitions, zoos, exhibitions, reintroduction in the wild, law enforcement and educational.
The “Other” category for 2019 also includes breeding.
The “Other” category in previous years also includes botanical gardens, but no breeding data.
Table 3 indicates the number of export permits issued in each of the past seven calendar years for Polar Bears harvested in Canada. An analysis is provided of the year of harvest of the Polar Bear being exported in a particular calendar year. The permits may include any Polar Bear specimen – for example skin, skull, claws, or baculum. Permits for scientific samples of Polar Bears are not included in this analysis, since they are not related to Polar Bear harvest.
|Year permit issued||Total export permits issued|
Even if a permit for a specific Polar Bear is issued in a calendar year, the actual export may not take place for various reasons (for example the permit expired before shipment could take place, cancelled shipment, or changes from rug to full mount). A permit could be reissued in the same calendar year or subsequent years for a specific Polar Bear, which was never actually exported under a previously issued permit.
There are three bears that were harvested prior to 2010-2011. One of them in 2007, one in 2009 and the other in the 1950s.
*Harvest season is counted from July to June of following year. For example, harvest season 2018-2019 started on July 1, 2018, and finished on June 30, 2019.
2.3.2 Permits for multiple shipments
An export permit or re-export certificate may authorize multiple shipments of specimens that have been approved by the permitting office. The permit or certificate holder is responsible for identifying the destination, specific specimens and quantities that make up each shipment. This provides a simplified procedure for permit holders who trade in specimens with very little or no impact to the conservation of species. Of the 5,137 export permits and re-export certificates listed in Table 2, there were 1,167 for multiple shipments, authorizing 30,068 shipments. By far, the largest share of multiple shipment permits was issued to growers and distributors of American Ginseng.
In Canada, the export of a small quantity of artificially propagated American Ginseng for personal use (up to 4.5 kg) is authorized through a simplified permitting procedure using ginseng stickers. A permit sticker identifying the permit number under which the multiple shipments are authorized accompanies each shipment. Individual stickers accounted for 75% (22,544 of the 30,068) of the multiple shipment permits authorized in 2020.
2.3.3 Imports into Canada
Figure 4 indicates the distribution of the 155 CITES import permits issued in 2020, by purpose as indicated by the CITES transaction code. Figure 5 indicates the percentage of overall CITES import permits issued from 2011 to 2020, by purpose of transaction.
Figure 4 is a pie chart that presents the percentage of CITES import permits issued in 2020, by purpose of transaction: 45% for commercial purposes (74); 22% for personal use (36); 7% for hunting trophies (12); 7% for zoos (11); 5% for scientific research (9); 13% for breeding (22); 1% for education (1).
Note: The imports for commercial purposes consists mainly of artificially propagated plants, pre-Convention specimens (such as antiques containing ivory) and captive-bred animals (such as falcons and parrots).
|Year||Hunting trophies||Commercial purposes||Personal Use||Scientific Research||Exhibitions||Zoos||Other*||Breeding||Education|
Note: In years prior to 2020, the “Other” category includes breeding, law enforcement, reintroduction to the wild and biomedical research.
2.3.4 Specialized CITES certificates
As indicated in Table 1, there are many types of permits and certificates issued in Canada under WAPPRIITA. The specialized CITES certificate allows movement of CITES-listed specimens in specialized scenarios. There are three types of specialized certificates:
- certificate of ownership – allows owners of CITES-listed pets to travel with their pets across international borders
- temporary movement certificate – allows travel outside of Canada with items made from CITES-listed species, such as musical instruments (such as bagpipes with ivory) or exhibits from museums and art galleries
- scientific certificate – used by Canadian CITES-registered institutions to exchange specimens with CITES-registered institutions in another country. This facilitates the movement of scientific samples for research and cataloguing
While these specialized certificates represent a modest number of permits issued each year, they serve a very important function by facilitating the movement of specimens of CITES-listed species in low-risk situations.
|Year||Certificate of Ownership||Temporary Movement Certificate||Scientific Certificate||Total|
2.4 Permits specific to WAPTR
Canada requires import permits, referred to as injurious wildlife permits, for certain species that may pose a risk to Canadian ecosystems, but do not necessarily appear in the CITES appendices. These species are listed in Schedule II of WAPTR and include Raccoon Dogs, Mongooses, Starlings, Mynas, and Oxpeckers. Schedule II of WAPTR was amended in May 2018 to include all species under the order Caudata, which includes salamanders, newts and mudpuppies. This amendment was to continue the protection initiated in May 2017 to protect Salamanders and ecosystems in Canada from a devastating fungal disease.
Injurious wildlife permits are typically issued in two scenarios: import of live Salamanders for zoos and scientific institutions; and import of fur products or garments made of Raccoon Dogs. A disease-causing fungus called Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans (BSal), has been devastating salamander populations in Europe. It is suspected that the fungus spread from Asia via the pet trade. Wild Salamanders play a vital role in Canada's ecosystems as part of the food web and in nutrient and carbon cycling. If the fungus enters Canadian ecosystems, the impacts on our native Salamanders will likely be severe. Canada prohibits the import of all species of the order Caudata unless accompanied by a permit. This import restriction includes living or dead specimens (or any other parts or derivatives of species of the order Caudata), as well as any of their eggs, sperm, tissue culture or embryos.
|Year||Live animals (Salamanders)||Garments/Scientific Specimens||Total|
2.5 Canada’s trading partners
Canada’s major trading partners under CITES, particularly for exports, continue to be the United States, the member countries of the European Union, and the countries of East and Southeast Asia. Exports to the United States and the European Union cover a wide-range of specimens and species. In the case of Asia, particularly East and Southeast Asia, the species most commonly exported from Canada was cultivated American Ginseng, with these regions accounting for the majority of Canada’s foreign market for this species.
3. Assessing the risk to species from trade
Countries exporting specimens of species listed in CITES Appendices I or II must provide a scientific determination that such export will not be detrimental to the survival of the species. This determination is referred to as a non-detriment finding (NDF). Some countries, such as the United States and member countries of the European Union, enforce regulations that are stricter than those of CITES, leading to a higher level of scrutiny by those countries when they are considering exports and NDFs from exporting countries.
3.1 Non-detriment findings
Canada’s NDFs are consistent with a resolution adopted by the CITES Conference of the Parties as well as the international guidance for CITES Scientific Authorities, and guidance provided by the CITES Secretariat.
In Canada, NDFs are determined on a permit-by-permit basis. For frequently traded species, standing NDF reports are prepared to support the issuance of export permits. Canada’s species-specific standing NDF reports are developed following the process that involves the federal-provincial/territorial CITES Scientific Authorities working group, as well as participation and review by species experts and Indigenous peoples. Canada has standing NDFs that cover the majority of Canada’s trade, which include: American Ginseng, Atlantic Sturgeon, Black Bear, Bobcat, Canadian Lynx, Cougar, Goldenseal, Grey Wolf, Grizzly Bear, Narwhal, Polar Bear, River Otter, and Sandhill Crane. Standing NDF reports are reviewed periodically and, if necessary, updated with the most recent information.
No standing NDF reports were reviewed for 2020. Canada’s Standing Non-Detriment Finding Reports.
4. Compliance promotion and enforcement of CITES and WAPPRIITA
ECCC works in partnership with a broad range of enforcement partners to secure compliance with WAPPRIITA. These partners include the Canada Border Services Agency, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Transport Canada, Natural Resources Canada, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, provincial and territorial law enforcement and conservation authorities, as well as the United States Fish and Wildlife Service. ECCC is also an active partner on the international stage in promoting and verifying compliance with the CITES.
4.1 Compliance promotion
Following 18th Conference of the Parties (CoP18), the ECCC CITES website was updated with all CoP decisions, including the revised Appendices lists. In 2020, ECCC also continued to promote compliance with CITES and WAPPRIITA through more than 20 displays located at various venues, including: airports, science centres, zoos, customs offices and border crossings; however, these efforts were impeded significantly by the COVID-19 pandemic and the restrictions that were imposed on travel, field operations and interactions with the public. With restricted operations resuming in the fall, ECCC conducted limited compliance promotion actions in the fourth quarter of the year. The purpose of CITES compliance promotion initiatives is to educate and inform Canadians about both the impacts of illegal wildlife trade, and the plant and animal species they cannot bring into the country without a CITES import permit.
4.2 Enforcement activities
Compliance with WAPPRIITA is verified by various means, such as: reviewing permits; auditing import and export declarations; conducting inspections at ports of entry; conducting routine or spot inspections of wildlife businesses; sharing information with border officials and other national and international agencies; gathering information; developing intelligence; and following up on tips provided by the public.
Poaching and trafficking of wildlife undermines conservation efforts and threatens the conservation of species. Over-exploitation driven by illegal trade can decimate populations of species. Illegal trade can also threaten and destabilize the socio-economic benefits that legal trade in wildlife can provide to certain communities.
Wildlife trafficking worldwide has increased significantly over the past 20 years with illegal wildlife trade and environmental crime ranking as the fourth most lucrative form of organized crime worldwide. Although it is difficult to provide an exact figure on the value of illegal wildlife trade, INTERPOL’s 2018 Global Wildlife Enforcement report estimated it to be approximately $20 billion USD annually. According to the World Bank, economic losses worldwide due to illegal trade of wildlife, fish and timber have risen to an estimated $1-$2 trillion USD annually.
According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’s 2020 World Wildlife Report, nearly 6,000 species have been seized between 1999-2018, including not only mammals, but reptiles, corals, birds, and fish.
The COVID-19 pandemic has caused significant challenges for conservation and enforcement efforts worldwide. It also brought to the forefront the links between the current global health crisis and illegal wildlife trade, with suggestions that wet marketsFootnote 3 could have facilitated the transfer of COVID-19 to humans.
Worldwide awareness and attention to illegal wildlife trade resulted from the pandemic, highlighting its impact on public health, the economy and sustainability, in addition to the environmental consequences on climate change and preservation of biodiversity. This has resulted in tightening of restrictions on illegal wildlife trade and wet markets, and an increased awareness and call to action to increase national and international controls.
Inspections are conducted to ensure that the import and export of animals and plants comply with the requirements of WAPPRIITA. Inspections are instrumental in obtaining ongoing information on trends and emerging non-compliance risks and threats. The analysis of information collected through inspections informs the development of risk-based priorities for compliance verification.
Inspections are either proactively planned or conducted in response to a referral from another federal department or agency, such as the Canada Border Services Agency, provincial or territorial governments, or the public. Of the inspections conducted under WAPPRIITA, less than three percent (2.4%) are focused on Canadian species at high conservation risk or facing a high level of non-compliance with the Act, and 97% are focused on foreign species meeting these same criteria of high conservation risk or high level of non-compliance with the Act. The discrepancy between Canadian and international species is attributed to and reflective of the demand and volume of Canadian domestic species versus international species that are imported and exported internationally and inter-provincially.
In 2020, there were 1,359 inspections under WAPPRIITA. The number of national inspections decreased by 59% compared to 2019 (3,344 inspections), which can be directly attributed to the restrictions on travel, border crossings and field operations for Enforcement Officers due to COVID-19, which required adjustments in the way inspections are conducted.
ECCC maintains close relationships with several stakeholders to improve and increase planning of enforcement activities. In recent years, enforcement activities have been initiated by multiple agencies collaboratively and in joint partnerships, which has resulted in more effective use of resources, especially during the ongoing pandemic.
The Intelligence program in ECCC has also increased capacity and this has allowed for closer monitoring of illegal activity related to WAPPRIITA to ensure a targeted and strategic approach to identifying patterns to allow for improved enforcement initiatives and blitzes.
In 2020, ECCC opened 26 new investigations involving international and inter-provincial movements of wildlife, and executed the largest seizure of shark fin in the history of wildlife enforcement in Canada.
The outcomes of ECCC’s main investigations, including media releases and enforcement notifications, are published in Enforcement notifications. Please note that open investigations do not necessarily correlate to those published online.
There were 183 violations of WAPPRIITA or its regulations recorded in 2020 that resulted in three prosecutions, 14 Administrative Monetary Penalties (AMPs, total amounts of $8,900), two tickets and 163 warnings.
In 2020, in spite of court proceedings being significantly reduced due to COVID-19, there was one conviction made for violations of WAPPRIITA following an investigation involving reptiles, which led to multiple violations, including one for a Monocled Cobra (CITES II). The investigation resulted in fines totalling $5,500.
4.3 Collaboration with provincial and territorial partners
As noted in Section 1.3, several provincial and territorial departments and agencies have memoranda of understanding or agreements with ECCC allowing designated officers to enforce WAPPRIITA. The formal collaborations with federal departments and agencies include, but are not limited to, Canada Border Services, Canadian Food Inspection Agency and Department of Fisheries and Oceans. The collaboration between the federal government and its provincial and territorial partners is beneficial given their shared mandate, and results in better coordination of efforts and resources in undertaking wildlife enforcement actions, especially when dealing with large-scale operations.
5. International Cooperation
5.1 CITES Conferences of the Parties
The CITES Conference of the Parties (CoP) meets once every three years. During the period between meetings of the CoP, the Animals Committee, the Plants Committee and the Standing Committee implement directives received from the preceding CoP and prepare for the next CoP. The next CITES CoP (CoP19) is planned for Spring 2022 in Switzerland, unless a Party expresses interest in hosting it in the Fall 2022.
The 18th meeting of the CITES Conference of the Parties (CoP18) took place on August 17 to 28, 2019 in Geneva, Switzerland. CITES provides that amendments to Appendices I and II adopted at a meeting of the CoP shall enter into force 90 days after that meeting for all Parties (for CoP18, this was November 26, 2019), except for those Parties who make a reservation. Many Parties, including Canada, have difficulty meeting this short timeline due to their domestic implementation processes. Following CoP18, Canada submitted a temporary reservation to the CITES Depository Government (Switzerland) to ensure Canada’s compliance with the Convention while Canada completed its domestic treaty implementation process. By entering this reservation, Canada indicated it would not be bound by the CoP18 amendments to the CITES Appendices until such a time as it has completed its domestic treaty implementation process. Canada amended Schedule I of WAPTR in August 2020 in order to fully implement the CoP18 decisions, and the reservation was withdraw in December 2020.
5.2 CITES committees and working groups
Canada participates in a number of committees and working groups to foster ongoing cooperation with international partners under the Convention. In particular, the meetings of the CITES Standing Committee, the Plants Committee and the Animals Committee are instrumental in developing international policy for the implementation of the Convention. Decisions made by these bodies may affect Canada’s obligations under CITES and greatly influence the decisions ultimately adopted by the CoP.
Members of these committees are elected for each CITES region after every CoP. Canada is part of the North American region, along with the United States and Mexico. After CoP18 an official from ECCC was elected as the alternate member for the Animals Committee, and Canada continues to represent the North American region on the Standing Committee. In addition, Ms. Carolina Caceres from Environment and Climate Change Canada was re-elected as Chair of the Standing Committee.
Due to the international COVID-19 pandemic, the 31st meeting of the Animals Committee (scheduled for Geneva, Switzerland 13 - 17 July 2020) and the 25th meeting of the Plants Committee (scheduled for Geneva, Switzerland, 17 - 23 July 2020) were cancelled. The work of these Committees continued in 2020 by postal procedure. The 73rd meeting of the CITES Standing Committee was also cancelled, and Canada, as Chair, led discussions with the members of the Committee on how best to progress its work. Canada ensured the work of the CITES Standing Committee working groups was initiated and chaired one informal, online question and answer session with Committee members. Canada continued to lead and participate in the work of these Committees via email or through virtual meetings, to ensure a strong Canadian presence in this international forum. This is of particular importance given that the ongoing pandemic has sparked renewed interest in the role of wildlife trade in the spread of zoonotic diseases, and the critical importance of ensuring that evidence-based decisions on wildlife trade are taken in a timely fashion.
5.3 International cooperation in enforcement operations
In October 2020, ECCC’s enforcement officers participated in INTERPOL’s (International Criminal Police Organization) Operation Thunder 2020, an international enforcement effort in collaboration with the World Customs Organization, aimed at cracking down on wildlife crime including smuggling, poaching and trafficking. The month-long operation involved 103 countries worldwide, focusing on stopping the illegal import and export of wildlife products at ports of entry, and resulted in 2,000 seizures of wildlife and forestry products and 1.3 tonnes of ivory. The operation was a huge success considering the global constraints on enforcement and intelligence operations worldwide due to COVID-19 during this operation.
ECCC’s enforcement officers responded to over 40 complaints and tips received from the public concerning habitat and wildlife destruction. Enforcement officers also conducted a dozen inspections, enforcement activities and hunter checks, and led a series of border crossing blitzes to look for evidence of illegal exports of Canadian species, as well as illegal imports of exotic species.
Over the course of the operation, officers intercepted items such as pangolin carcasses, saiga antelope, sturgeon caviar, diet pills containing hoodia (an endangered African plant species), European eel meat, and black bear bacula, testes and paws, among other items. In six incidents, compliance orders were issued to protect species at risk in Canada.
Worldwide, the initial results of Operation Thunder have led to the identification of almost 699 offenders and resulted in arrests. Further arrests and prosecutions are foreseen as ongoing global investigations progress.
Global seizures reported
- Over one tonne of pangolin scales (equivalent to 1,700 killed pangolins)
- 32 live primates
- 187 raw elephant tusks (equivalent to 856 kg of ivory) and a total of 1.3 tonnes of ivory pieces and rhino horns
- more than 1,160 birds
- four big cats and large quantities of animal parts
- just under 1,800 reptiles and nearly 101,400 turtles and tortoises and 6,000 turtle and tortoises eggs
- almost 45,500 live wildlife and plants specimens, including an 18 tonne shipment of sandalwood
- 950 tonnes of timber (equivalent to 87 truckloads)
- approximately 56,200 kg marine wildlife products
- more than 15,878 kg of plants
5.4 United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime
ECCC collaborates with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime to exchange experiences and best practices in preventing and combatting wildlife and forest crime among countries in the Americas; get a better understanding of the link between wildlife and forest crime and organized crime in the Americas; and identify potential joint strategies and activities for cooperation.
In partnership with the Canadian government representatives from Global Affairs Canada, the Department of Justice and Public Safety, and many other federal departments, ECCC participated in the Conference of the Parties (CoP) to the United Nations Convention against Transnational Organized Crime. This tenth session took place from 12 - 16 October 2020, in a hybrid format due to COVID-19.
6. Additional Information
For more information about WAPPRIITA, please consult International trade in protected animals and plants or contact ECCC at:
Environment and Climate Change Canada
Ottawa ON K1A 0H3
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