Those lucky enough to get a summer vacation at the beach or in the mountains should know that whistleblowers play a role in protecting the beautiful places we visit. A cruise ship engineer reported illegal dumping. A federal environmental analyst revealed that he was told to reverse his findings to favor a developer. Environmental activists are enlisting citizen scientists to gather data.

In June, the Environmental Law Institute in Washington, DC. held a panel on citizen involvement in fighting environmental crimes.

Around the world, significant progress has been made to establish legal frameworks for environmental protection. Many of these laws can help to put a stop to pollution or conserve natural resources in the United States, as well as foreign countries and international waters. However, the success of these laws is greatly hindered by a lack of enforcement.

Oftentimes, everyday citizens have evidence of environmental wrongdoing, or could easily collect it, but lack the know how to report such evidence to the authorities, or otherwise follow up on required procedures.

Here’s what they are up against:


Stephen M. Kohn, chair of the National Whistleblower Center argues that whistleblowers can help save the vaquita. He made his comments earlier this year in a story in the Earth Island Journal.

Kohn wonders why the US hadn’t used its powerful whistleblower laws that have helped bring down presidents, Big Tobacco, and the FBI, to this end. “‘There is now a growing consensus that incentivizing whistleblowers is a key to enforcing wildlife trafficking laws,” says Kohn…

The aim of a wildlife whistleblower program, he says, would be to make it more lucrative for potential poachers and traffickers to provide intelligence to law enforcement than to kill endangered animals. The illegal wildlife trade is a multibillion-dollar industry, and demand for everything from elephant ivory to pangolin scales has resulted in the destruction of hundreds of millions of animals around the globe. The US is believed to be the second largest consumer of illegal wildlife products in the world, and China the first.

More on citizen involvement.