Tying Forests to Fish
Why would SALT attend a meeting about forest legality? To learn. What can our community learn from work to stop the illegal timber trade? A lot, as it turns out.
The third annual World Resources Institute (WRI) Forest Legality Week was hosted in Washington, DC from October 8-10. The WRI Forest Legality Initiative was a founding inspiration for SALT. Originally developed by USAID with other U.S. government partners, the Forest Legality Alliance has now transitioned and carries on important work in illegal logging.
The overwhelming commonality between the two fields is that traceability is a key solution to address illegal behaviors. Some observations and takeaways:
- Multiple initiatives are working to tackle the issue. We’re not alone in having many alliances, collaborations, projects, etc. – Tropical Forest Alliance, Global Forest Watch, Forest Legality Initiative, Extractives Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) (which took on timber in addition to oil and gas after lobbying) and the International Tropical Timber Organization (ITTO) to name a few. I’m sure all of this work is unique, but seafood struggles with a complicated and busy landscape as well.
- Companies secure local businesses in a country to operate but are usually owned by larger foreign companies
- Transparency is essential for enforcing existing regulations and to stop illegality.
- The Open Timber Portal is an online resource that synthesizes reports and highlights key findings and curates relevant information. The platform aims to improve access to comprehensive country-specific information about forest management and harvesting, and increase the effectiveness of regulations on illegal logging, such as the U.S. Lacey Act and the EU Timber Regulation (EUTR).
- Technology interoperability is an issue in forest traceability as well.
- Voluntary certification schemes are plentiful.
- Producer country and consumer country needs are vastly different.
- There appears to be more transparent data in forestry. Many presentations reported being able to identify fraud because of incongruencies in public reporting from exports, price, sales, and revenue.
- Enforcement opportunities are many – Environmental Investigation Agency, CITES, Interpol, national governments, U.S. Dept of Justice, etc. – with illegal logging. There are fewer enforcement bodies and opportunities to regulate illegal fishing given the lack of monitoring and enforcement ability on the high seas, coupled with low capacity for monitoring and enforcement in many countries’ Exclusive Economic Zones (including ports).
- Why do certain governments ban illegal logging and enforce it but don’t do the same for illegal fishing?
- Forest concessions have clear boundaries with observable satellite data of deforestation and monitors can more easily access the forests than access fishing vessels.
- Deforestation is linked to different agricultural commodities (food, etc.) so traceability or establishing linkages is harder.
- In forestry, addressing illegality is spoken simultaneously with responsible and sustainable management of the resource.