20th International Wildlife Law Conference draws speakers from around globe despite pandemic

The 20th International Wildlife Law Conference was entirely online this year because of the coronavirus pandemic. All presentations are available on Stetson Law’s YouTube Channel.

By George Thurlow
Second-year Law Student
Stetson University College of Law

Stetson Law hosted the 20th International Wildlife Law Conference (IWLC-20) on April 1- 2, 2020, and the two days were packed with presentations from a variety of professionals involved in wildlife conservation, including lawyers, academics, and scientists on topics such as invasive species, trophy hunting, marine biodiversity, and climate change and its impact on wildlife treaties.

The COVID-19 outbreak forced the conference to move to an online-only format, but it kicked off with an opening presentation from Stetson’s own Paul Boudreaux, followed by the final Edward and Bonnie Foreman Biodiversity Lecture of the spring, and a mix of panels and keynote speakers.

The first keynote speaker, Dr. Mar Campins Eritja from the Universitat de Barcelona, discussed ITLOS’ Judicial Interpretation of the Precautionary Principle Within the Framework of the UNCLOS. (Acronyms are very common in the field of environmental law, so for the uninitiated, ITLOS is the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea, and UNCLOS is the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.) Dr. Eritja discussed how these interact with the precautionary principle—essentially, if the impacts of something are unknown, a high degree of caution should be taken.

A slide from one of the panel presentations; all of the participants were great sports who adapted graciously to the online version of the conference.
A slide from one of the panel presentations; all of the participants were great sports who adapted graciously to the online version of the conference.

A law student panel on Wildlife and Animal Welfare followed Dr. Eritja’s presentation. It consisted of four presentations from law students in the United States and Canada, including one from Stetson student Kate Welch, J.D. ’20. These topics generally touched on threats to species that are facing some form of endangerment, from seals in Canada, to critical animals that are often seen as “vermin” on farms, to sharks, to trafficked animals (Welch’s topic). Welch’s interest in trafficked animals comes from experience she had at an elephant sanctuary in India the summer after her 1L year and subsequent involvement in Stetson’s environmental law programs.

Another panel featuring Professor Volker Mauerhofer of Mid Sweden University and Stetson student Emily Preu J.D. ’20 tackled the Challenges with Invasive Species and Other Wildlife.  The afternoon concluded with two presentations—one on China’s Wildlife Law and Public Health by Prof. Dr. Tianbao Qin and another on climate geoengineering by Dr. Wil Burns.

The title slide for Professor Dr. QIN Tianbao's presentation on China's wildlife law.
Professor Dr. QIN Tianbao’s presentation on China’s Wildlife Law in the Context of Public Health was of particular relevance. It begins at 3:20:28 on the Day 1 afternoon YouTube link.

Dr. Qin’s presentation was especially pertinent given the current theory that COVID-19 originated from animals in China and has since posed the greatest global public health threat in a century, while Dr. Burns’ topic was especially relevant in Florida. All of the day’s presentations, as well as the second complete day of the conference, can be viewed in three parts on Stetson Law’s YouTube channel.

Overall, it was an information-packed afternoon. When asked about the conference, Preu said it was “an awesome experience” and that “everyone really put together very thought-provoking presentations” despite the last-minute move online.

IWLC-20 was coordinated by the Institute for Biodiversity Law and Policy at Stetson University College of Law and co-sponsored by the Environmental Law Center at the University of Cologne, the Institute of Environment Education and Research at Bharati Vidyapeeth University, Tilburg University, and the University of Barcelona Faculty of Law. Stetson last hosted the conference in 2016; it was held in Barcelona last year. When this event is hosted at Stetson, it occurs in conjunction with the Stetson International Environmental Moot Court Competition.

View the entire conference on YouTube

Conference Agenda