'CITES and the value of wildlife'
On the visibility and victimisation of the minke whale, queen conch and Atlantic bluefin tuna
Background and context
The increasing overexploitation of nature and wildlife is recognised as one of the leading threats behind the potential extinction of around one million species (IPBES, 2019). Despite being the second largest globally traded wildlife, after timber, marine species are an often overlooked group in discussions of wildlife trade. My PhD research at Northumbria University focussed on marine wildlife who are also commercially exploited as food resources. I investigated how CITES has been involved in the management of trade in marine species, how industry and conservation efforts align (or not), and how harms from un/sustainable exploitation have been represented and responded to.
I conducted three case studies on commercially exploited marine species:
Atlantic bluefin tuna
My research sits within the field of green criminology which seeks to bring attention to ‘lawful but awful’ practices (Passas, 2005). The central focus lies in those harms toward the environment and non-human animals that are seemingly normalised and accepted.
For more details on the criminological perspectives I draw from in my work, take a look at Angus Nurse and Tanya Wyatt's 'Wildlife Criminology' and David Rodríguez Goyes' 'Southern Green Criminology'.
In this video abstract I am introducing my PhD research for the 2021 BSC Green Crime Twitter Conference.
This presentation focussed on the visibility of harms in the marine wildlife trade and how perceptions of marine species influence conservation-decision making policies.
I presented this poster at the BSC 2021 Conference to display some of the early findings from my research.
Within these three cases, it was consumption from wealthy nations (not local consumption, or traditional/subsistence consumption) that was described as driving over-exploitation and increasing the harms towards both wildlife, people and the environment.
Yet another key consideration here are how power dynamics play out in international trade, and how legislation surrounding marine wildlife can act to perpetuate both species and social injustices.
My research demonstrates how legal and moral perspectives surrounding marine species diverge and are influenced by power asymmetries underlying the political, cultural, and economic value of each species.
I also developed on themes around cultures of consumption - and the combined yet conflicting motivations for economic growth and sustainable exploitation.
In recognition of the mounting pressures of biodiversity loss, ecological destruction, and species extinction, the protection of life on Earth is arguably the greatest challenge of the 21st century. Future projects should continue to expand on the integration of a non-speciesist approach when examining wildlife trade and crime. Such a perspective will broaden our recognition of harms impacting both wildlife and the environment.