Portugal: Environmental crimes seen as important, combat as insufficient – study

People in Portugal see environmental crimes as very important and want them fought more effectively, suggest the results of a study released on Friday by the Portuguese Society for the Study of Birds (SPEA).

The results were published to mark International Day for Biological Diversity, 22 May, with SPEA arguing that “stronger” sentences should be imposed on those who are found to have committed crimes against the environment.

The study, according to SPEA, was carried out as part of the project “LIFE Nature Guardians”, which is aimed at reducing the impact of environmental crimes in Portugal and Spain and improving the effectiveness of the fight against them.

In a survey of 700 Portuguese people, the statement explains, 80% of those questioned said that the government did not give enough importance to environmental issues, and almost 90% argued that crimes against the environment are as or more important than other types of crime. 

Participants evaluated as “insufficient” the effectiveness of the entities that fight environmental crimes, as well as the legislation itself.

“To respond to this concern of the Portuguese and significantly reduce environmental crimes we need stronger sentences that really have a deterrent effect, so that the perpetrators do not go unpunished, and these crimes are no longer seen as ‘lucrative'”, the SPEA statement quotes Joaquim Teodósio, coordinator of its department of terrestrial conservation as saying.

According to the society, between 1998 and 2017 a total of 1,066 crimes against nature were recorded in Portugal.

Also as part of the LIFE Nature Guardians project, researchers at the University of Porto found that out of 52 criminal cases they looked at, although 80% resulted in conviction, most of the fines imposed did not exceed €900.

In Spain, fines are higher, they found, citing as an example the fact that those found responsible for the deaths of six imperial eagles were sentenced to pay €360,000. 

International Day of Biodiversity commemorates the adoption of the agreed text of the Convention on Biological Diversity on 22 May 1992 by the Nairobi Final Act at a conference in that city in Kenya. The date of 29 December, when the convention came into force, was the original date of the day but in 2000 the United Nations General Assembly chose 22 May, as more convenient.