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Clamp Urged: Watchdog 'crucial to monitor trade in protected species'.

ENVIRONMENTALISTS have called for an independent authority to monitor the illegal trade of protected species in Bahrain.

They want the body, National Environment Regulatory Authority, to operate under the Supreme Council for Environment (SCE) and be given powers to take action against activities harming the environment.

Leading Bahraini environmentalist Dr Khawla Al Mohannadi said the SCE should be empowered as a "regulatory authority" backed with a dedicated environment police and court, which could be supported by volunteers from non-government organisations (NGOs).

Dr Al Mohannadi, who heads the Environment Friends Society (EFS), said laws on protecting endangered species in the country such as Bahrain's national bird, the whitecheeked bulbul were regularly violated by illegal traders, who were rarely punished.

"Bahrain has good environmental legislation but we have two issues: One is that the law is not being implemented and the second is that we need new legislation as there are some areas (that need to be addressed)," she told the GDN.

"The law clearly protects species in Bahrain. No one can hunt them, kill them, sell them or buy them, but we see it all done in public on social media.

"You know who is trading - the name and contact numbers are out there - yet the law is not applied.

"Bahraini bulbul is a classic example - the law names the bird and we have reported the public trading of the bird (both endangered and migratory) to the SCE with documented proof, but nothing has been done till date. We tried talking to these traders and they don't care as there is no fear of the law.

"We learned that there is some authority who occasionally takes away the bulbuls from the markets, keep them for a while and then let them go, but how often is this done?

"Another species are turtles which are protected by law and cannot be killed or harmed, but we see them in pet shops and malls, they are sold every day and nothing is being done."

Dr Al Mohannadi said a specialised authority should be set up to enforce the law and to protect endangered species and the environment.

"I think we should empower the SCE as a regulatory authority and should have environment courts under it to deal with such crimes," she said.

"As such crimes must be dealt with quickly and in a different environment than that of a regular court.

"We should follow the model of such courts in foreign countries like the US, where I have witnessed the procedures.

"We should also have a judge who is knowledgeable in environment related issues.

"I am sure this is feasible in Bahrain and we should also have an environment police, like in Kuwait, to support the system.

"We, the NGOS, are more than happy to support them with volunteers and this will tackle the manpower demand.

"We will be the first responders and we will report the issues, and all we ask for is an authority to implement and enforce the laws.

"We see all sorts of migratory species in the market, when legally you are not even supposed to touch them as Bahrain is party to the CITES."

Bahrain signed the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in 2012, which aims to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten their survival.

The GDN previously reported on illegal trading of endangered animals and exotic birds in Bahrain. In 2015 the EFS said it had registered as many as 30 cases of protected species being smuggled into Bahrain and openly traded in local markets.

The SCE did not comment when contacted by the GDN.

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Publication:Gulf Daily News (Manama, Bahrain)
Geographic Code:7BAHR
Date:Mar 10, 2018
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