WWF- Romania delivered a series of training sessions for representatives of the Romanian Police, General Directorate of Customs, Danube Delta Police Service and the National Agency for Fisheries and Aquaculture in the second half of 2019. More than 200 officials were trained to detect illegal trade in sturgeon meat and caviar. The majority of the law enforcement officials work in units specialised in trade control, including trade in wildlife species.
The training sessions were organised as part of the LIFE for Danube Sturgeons Project and focused on the identification of native Danube sturgeon species, as well as differentiating between them and exotic species and hybrids that can often be seen on Romanian fish markets. The project team also outlined the legal framework for importing and exporting sturgeon products, the EU requirements for caviar labeling, presented the EU TWIX system and the most recent scientific methods used to identify the origin of sturgeon species. Part of the training was tailored around the different means and methods used by criminals to smuggle sturgeons and other endangered wildlife species. Illegal wildlife trade by organised crime in Europe poses a direct threat to the well-being, businesses, national institutions and local economies of European citizens.
The expected outcome of the training was to increase the national authorities’ capacity to enable seizure and confiscation of illegal specimens and lay down the penalties for illegal wildlife trade.
Increased Interest in Wildlife Crime
The training sessions took place at the premises of the Regional Customs Directorates of Timis, Cluj, Iasi and Galati, in the County Police Inspectorates Constanta, Tulcea, Ialomita, Galati and Braila, the Central Office of Public Order in Bucharest and at the National Agency for Fisheries and Aquaculture, in Constanta and Busteni.
At the end of the training, the institutions’ representatives were invited to take an exit questionnaire and share their feedback with the project team. The overall comments were about the need for more information materials on the trade of live animals, ornamental plants, tropical timber, food, leather, ivory and wildlife-based medicines to be made available, especially in Romanian language. he ability for enforcement officers to detect wildlife crime and stop criminals in their tracks would significantly improve. The LIFE for Danube Sturgeons website has a specifically designed section where all project materials are stored, including manuals, brochures and training videos.
A New Brochure Aimed at Prosecutors and Judges in the Making
A new training and information brochure aimed at law enforcement and judiciary officials is being prepared by the team, led by WWF-Romania and based on their expertise on assisting the countries in the Lower Danube in the fight against wildlife trade crime. The core part of the material outlines the existing international, European and national legal framework in relation to sturgeon protection and conservation including poaching, illegal trade and fraud. The brochure also makes recommendations addressing the key aspects that should be taken into consideration when wildlife crime cases are investigated, prosecuted and brought to trial.