International Protection of Nature and Wildlife
Not all threats to wildlife and nature can be tackled at the national level and international cooperation is required to combat these threats and provide greater protection for wildlife and their habitats. Examples where international cooperation offer the best form of protection include combating illegal international trade in endangered species, protection of migratory species and their habitats and tackling climate change and its negative impact on nature and wildlife.
A number of multilateral conventions (international agreements made between several countries) have been developed to protect habitats and wildlife.
- Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of international importance especially as Waterfowl Habitat 1971
- The purpose of the Convention is to stem the progressive encroachment on and loss of wetlands now and in the future. It seeks to promote the wise use of wetlands, encourage research and promote training in research and the management of wetlands. It also requires contracting parties to designate suitable wetlands to be included in the list of wetlands of international importance. Designated sites in the UK include Morecambe Bay, Avon Valley, Dorset Heathlands and the Severn Estuary. All designated Ramsar sites are also SSSIs. Most of them overlap with Natura 2000 sites. The Convention’s obligations are met primarily by means of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 as amended and the equivalent devolved legislation, and the associated government policies. As a matter of policy Ramsar sites are given the same protection as Natura 2000 sites.
- The Convention for the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage 1972
- The World Heritage Convention seeks the identification, protection and conservation of cultural and natural heritage of global importance. Each State party to the Convention may nominate a possible site together with the appropriate management plan, for consideration by the Convention secretariat. The UK has a handful of natural sites namely St Kilda (also of cultural importance); Giants Causeway; Dorset and East Devon coast; Henderson Island (a part of the Pitcairn group of islands) and Gough Island (a part of the Tristan da Cunha group of islands).
- Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) 1973
- The Convention seeks to regulate the international trade in endangered animals and plants and in products derived from them. CITES protected species include whales, dolphins and porpoises, sea turtles, parrots, corals, cacti, aloes, corrals, and orchids. The UK meets its obligations under the Convention by means of the Endangered Species (import and Export) Act 1976. At a European level the provisions of the Convention are met by means of the Control of Trade in Endangered Species Regulation (EEC 338/97). You can find more information on how CITES is enforced in the UK in the DEFRA website.
- Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS or Bonn Convention) 1979
- The aim of the Bonn Convention is to conserve migratory species by ensuring that Contracting Parties take the necessary action, individually and collectively, to avoid species becoming endangered. The UK meets its obligations under the Convention by means of Part I of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 as amended and the equivalent devolved legislation.
- Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats (Bern Convention) 1979
- The Bern Convention seeks to conserve wild flora and fauna and their natural habitats and to promote European cooperation in this area. It gives special attention to endangered and vulnerable species, including endangered and vulnerable migratory species. Although it primarily operates at the European regional level, it extends to some parts of Africa, including Burkina Faso, Tunisia, Morroco and Senegal which are state parties to the Convention. The Bern Convention is enforced in the UK through the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.
- UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) 1982
- UNCLOS provides the legal framework for international governance of seas and oceans. Although not primarily concerned with the protection of wildlife and nature, it does require states to promote peaceful use of the seas and oceans and equitable and efficient utilisation of their resources. Some of the provisions of UNCLOS that affect nature and wildlife, include the duty to prevent, reduce and control marine pollution and coastal states' responsibilities to conserve and manage resources in their respective exclusive economic zones (EEZ). UNCLOS also allows for the protection of ceteceans and other marine mammals in the high seas.
- Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)1992
- The objectives of the Convention are the conservation of biological diversity; the sustainable use of its components; and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits of utilising the genetic resource. Amongst other things, the Convention requires parties to draw up plans for conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity. The UK meets this obligation by means of Biodiversity Action Plans. This is a policy driven initiative. Public bodies have a general duty with regard to biodiversity as set out in the Natural Environment and Rural Communities Act 2006 (England and Wales), the Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004 and the Wildlife and Natural Environment (Northern Ireland) Act 2011.