The Earth’s biological resources are vital to humanity’s economic and social development, as well as for the maintenance of ecosystem health. Countries have long recognized that species, ecosystems, and biological diversity are of tremendous value to present and future generations. At the same time, the threat to species and ecosystems has never been greater. Species extinction caused by human activities continues at an alarming rate. For these reasons, countries have adopted a range of international treaties to protect species, habitats, and biological diversity itself.
IELP works to strengthen existing legal frameworks and explore new avenues to protect endangered species, genetic diversity, and ecosystems worldwide. IELP has a longstanding history of working with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). The purpose of CITES is to protect species against over-exploitation due to international trade. IELP has provided advice to the CITES Secretariat, governments, and conservation organizations concerning implementation of CITES. IELP also engages actively in CITES by drafting proposals to establish or amend CITES implementation mechanisms and participating in working groups to improve implementation of CITES. For example, IELP has provided legal analyses and advice regarding implementation of an exemption for “personal and household effects,” the application of CITES’ permit regime to overexploited fish species such as bluefin tuna, and the legality of various proposals concerning the trade in African elephant ivory.
IELP also explores innovative avenues for biodiversity conservation in other multilateral environmental agreements (MEAs). IELP has participated in several meetings of the International Whaling Commission, arguing that the monitoring and control mechanisms found in fisheries organizations, such as on-board observers and vessel monitoring systems, could be used to regulate whaling activities. IELP supported conservation efforts to protect ”World Heritage Species” through the World Heritage Convention and other MEAs. Closer to home, IELP has petitioned the North American Commission on Environmental Cooperation, a trilateral commission established in connection with the NAFTA, to review the failure of the United States to enforce the Migratory Bird Treaty Act against loggers. IELP also advises governments on national legislation aimed at protecting threatened habitats and species.