WCS-India collaborated with the Mangrove Foundation to conduct an inter-agency workshop from 1st - 2nd June 2022 at the Coastal and Marine Biodiversity Centre, Mumbai. The two-day workshop aimed to strengthen the capacity of frontline officers to combat the illegal trade of marine wildlife in India. The workshop content was designed and executed as a partnership between the Counter Wildlife Trafficking and Marine Programme of WCS-India.
The first day comprised an inter-agency workshop attended by over 30 officers from three enforcement departments, i.e., Maharashtra Forest Department, Fisheries Department and Crime Branch of Maharashtra Police. Mr Virendra Tiwari, IFS (APCCF Mangrove Cell and Executive Director, Mangrove Foundation) and Mr Adarsh Reddy, IFS (DCF Mangrove Cell and Joint Director, Mangrove Foundation) inaugurated the workshop, highlighting the rise in marine wildlife crimes in Maharashtra and the urgency to collaborate towards protecting the marine biodiversity of the state.
The workshop was facilitated by members of the Counter Wildlife Trafficking and Marine Programme of WCS-India. Dr Aaron Lobo (Senior Advisor) and Mr Karan Deshpande (Project Associate) described the nuances of marine wildlife trafficking in India. Mr Faisal Patil (Legal Trainer) covered sections under the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972, Maharashtra Marine Fisheries Regulation Act, 1982 and the Maharashtra Fisheries Act of 1960, encouraging the application of overlapping sections under appropriate circumstances while coordinating the handover of marine wildlife offence reports.
The second day of the workshop focused on strengthening the capacity of the Range Forest Officers posted along the coastal divisions of Maharashtra. Twenty officers were in attendance as Mr Faisal Patil moderated interactive sessions to address their difficulties during the search, seizure and prosecution of marine wildlife offences. Mr Nirmal Kulkarni (Senior Consultant) covered a session on the importance of interacting with community members and building impactful relationships with coastal communities toward protecting our coastal areas. Ms Priya Poonia (Project Manager) and Ms Rebecca Lewis (Marine Trade Analyst) moderated both days of the workshop and facilitated group activities to encourage interaction and team-building amongst officers.
The key objectives of this workshop were to 1) Sensitise enforcement agencies to the types of marine wildlife harvest; 2) Facilitate coordination amongst enforcement departments towards reducing marine wildlife trafficking; 3) Strengthen enforcement capacity for detection and prosecution of marine wildlife crimes. During the two-day workshop, officers shared their experiences dealing with wildlife crimes. Officers participated in various group activities, encouraging increased coordination amongst departments to combat marine wildlife trafficking. Several Range Forest Officers acknowledged the importance of the workshop and encouraged WCS-India and the Mangrove Foundation to organise similar workshops for Foresters, Forest Guards and Watchers.
WCS-India will continue collaborating with enforcement departments and organise inter-agency workshops to strengthen enforcement capacity against wildlife crimes.