On September 8, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) held a webinar on the importance of protecting whistleblowers who report wildlife crimes. Whistleblower protection: A tool for stopping corruption that threatens the world’s forests, fisheries, and wildlife examined the legal options that potential international whistleblowers have when they witness fraud or corruption abroad and what organizations can do to improve those options.
Stephen M. Kohn, a partner at Kohn, Kohn & Colapinto, discussed the current laws in this area. Kohn began by explaining the effective whistleblower rewards system of the 1980 Act to Prevent Pollution from Ships (APPS) and showed how a U.S. law can be used to enforce global anti-pollution standards. The law requires that all ships that have contact with the U.S. keep accurate records of incidents of pollution for which they are responsible. Although the U.S. cannot enforce that these records are kept when the ship is not in U.S. jurisdiction, as soon as the vessel reaches U.S. waters, the records can be checked and the company fined for any illegal dumping or pollution. Importantly, whistleblowers on board the ships can report shoddy recordkeeping or unlogged dumping and receive up to 50% of the fine that the shipping company ends up paying. As the fines in question are usually in the millions of dollars, the reward money is often life-changing for international workers on these ships.