Weak Government Structure Policy and Legislation

Lack of coordination between government agencies and conflicting policies, either within countries or regionally, hinders biodiversity conservation. Responsibility for biodiversity conservation often overlaps within government agencies. For example, one government department may be delineating a protected area, while another is building a road or dam through that same area. The central government may control mining and logging concessions, often to the detriment of protected areas and biodiversity, and without providing any benefit to local people. Furthermore, wildlife does not recognize political boundaries, so ecosystems and species that cross provincial or country borders are especially at risk when policies and laws are inconsistent.

Even when the appropriate laws exist to protect biodiversity, these are often not enforced, or the penalties are too low to deter people from breaking them. Illegal extraction of wildlife and timber is common in many protected areas. International laws that limit hunting of certain species are rarely enforced. Markets around the world openly display illegally harvested wildlife. For example, sword-fish cannot be harvested until they reach a certain size, according to international law, but few countries enforce that law, and by the time the fish is sold consumers have no way of knowing if it was caught legally.

Human migration and civil unrest are often linked to a combination of government policies and socioeconomic factors; both also threaten biodiversity in many parts of the world. People migrate for many reasons: lack of economic opportunities, resource scarcity, civil unrest, or government policies. They may also be attracted to other areas because of better economic opportunities, free land, or similar incentives. Migration often brings social and cultural change. New colonists tend to manage resources with a short-term outlook, and traditional resource management may disappear. For example, migrants may use more destructive fishing methods, such as dynamite, that are not accepted by existing fishing communities. Migrants may settle in or near protected areas or increase population pressure on an area, leading to resource overuse.

Civil unrest is often a threat to biodiversity because it is typically associated with limited economic opportunities or political power, poverty, and migration. Civil unrest may also arise because of competition over scarce biological resources. Conflicts over fishing rights have occurred in many parts of the world, such as between England and Iceland in the 1970s and off the eastern coast of Canada in the 1980s and 1990s. The introduction of the Nile perch to Lake Victoria caused the extinction of many native fish important as local food sources, resulting in ongoing political, social, and economic unrest in the region. Several Central American countries have been decimated economically by mismanagement of the environment, leading to deforestation and intense soil erosion. Such dire economic conditions foster social unrest and political repression.

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