Persons in the British Virgin Islands who are seeking to possess animals or plants which are classified as endangered species will soon have to obtain permits from the Ministry of Natural Resources to legally do so.
This will be made possible through the Trade In Endangered Species (CITES) Act of 2019 which passed in the House of Assembly on Monday.
Minister for Natural Resources Vincent Wheatley said the bill is more than three decades overdue, and will now allow a number of local entities to have greater control and enforcement capacity over plants and animals which may enter or leave the territory.
These entities include his ministry, the National Parks Trust, the Agriculture and Fisheries Department, and Her Majesty’s Customs Department.
“It strengthens the process by which permits must be secured to hold listed animals and plants. The Act recognises local capacity to better understand the state and condition of species residing among us and therefore scientific and management authorities are established that will be responsible for ensuring compliance,” Wheatley said.
Local endangered species to be protected
He also said the Act will provide for a stronger and improved means to ensure the survival of local endangered species, and prevent their loss due to illicit trade.
“There is a driving illicit market for fauna and flora on a global scale. Species traded illegally include some of the world’s most endangered plants and animals such as tigers and gorillas,” the minister stated.
“Many corals that are not yet threatened to extinction but which could become threatened if unlimited trade was allowed are also listed and regulated. Some of the most iconic species which run part of our natural heritage are listed. The Anegada Rock Iguana is a critically endangered species as well as various local orchids among other species,” he added.
Aligns BVI with international treaty
Minister Wheatley further said that the legislation will also put the BVI in compliance with international policy.
“The international trade is threatened and endangered species is a major factor driving several species into extinction on a global scale. In a response to the threat many countries partnered to enact a convention on international trade in endangered species,” he stated.
The Act which is said to have now modernised the BVI’s framework to respond to the threat of loss of biodiversity caused by the illegal trade in threatened and endangered species must now be assented by the governor to become law.