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Understanding the challenge

Most trade in marine turtles and their products is banned © Adrian Reuter / TRAFFIC Most of the trade is legal, but a significant portion of it is not. Both legal and illegal traders adapt to changing circumstances. They target new species when others become depleted, shift to new markets or, in the case of illegal trade, develop new smuggling methods and routes to avoid detection. The globalisation of trade, creation of common markets, security concerns, growth in organized crime and advances in technology all add further complications to the already difficult task of ensuring that trade is legal, within sustainable levels and does not have indirect negative impacts on the conservation of nature.

Despite the considerable progress made under national and international conservation initiatives, this challenge remains substantial. In some countries, laws and management measures to ensure the trade remains at sustainable levels simply do not exist. In others, they are poorly communicated and just as poorly implemented and enforced. Often, positive efforts to address wildlife trade concerns are undermined by lack of political will and governance failures. Without political backing, disincentives for over-exploitation and illegal trade, such as penalties for legal infringements, are all too often weak. Similarly, poor understanding of and attention to wildlife trade as an economic activity all too commonly attracts corruption and wastefulness within the institutions that should be ensuring its effective management.

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