PORTO, PORTUGAL -- March 22 -- Today activists from the environmental groups Greenpeace and Quercus blocked the timber carrier Skyman as it attempted to enter the port of Leixoes to prevent it from unloading timber from companies known to be involved in illegal and destructive logging in the Amazon. Climbers rappelled from the bridge at the entrance to the port blocking the ship's entry to the docking area. This protest exposes Portugal's role as a European gateway for illegal timber from the world's ancient forests.
Greenpeace and Quercus, the largest environmental organisation in Portugal, have taken action to challenge the new Portuguese Government to take a strong public stand in full support of the European union's action plan to tackle the trade in illegal timber and to back new European legislation to prohibit the import of illegally logged timber.
The Skyman contains over US$253,000 from the Brazilian Amazon, including wood from at least four companies convicted in Brazil of supplying illegal timber. One of them Milton Schnorr, has been fined for illegal logging in 2001, 2002 and 2004 whilst the owner of Rancho da Cabocla, Moacir Ciesco, was arrested in December for his company's illegal timber extraction on public land.
Greenpeace Amazon Campaigner Marcelo Marquesini, speaking from Leixoes, said "The trade in Amazon timber from illegal and destructive logging is linked to corruption, theft of public land, violence against local communities and in some cases murder. By failing to tackle the trade in this timber Portugal could be considered complicit in these crimes."
The Brazilian Amazon has one of the world's highest rates of forest destruction. In 2003, Amazon deforestation reached 24,000 km2-an area equivalent to almost one third of Portugal. The State of Para, the principal exporter of Amazon timber to Portugal, accounts for over one-third of the total Amazon deforestation in Brazil. This deforestation has been driven by over four decades of illegal and destructive logging and the clearance of forest land for activities such as cattle ranching.
Portugal is the worlds 5th largest importer of timber from the Brazilian Amazon and a significant importer of timber from other ancient forest areas. Whilst other major EU importers of timber such as Germany, UK, France and Belgium have supported the rapid implementation of European measures to tackle illegal timber, known as Forest Law Enforcement Governance and Trade (FLEGT), Portugal has not shown the same commitmenti.
Helder Spinola from Quercus said "It is time for Portugal to assume its responsibility and not turn a blind eye to illegal activities in forest producing countries. We publicly challenge Portugal's new government to show its environmental credentials by fully supporting European measures to tackle the trade in illegal timber and by backing new EU legislation to prohibit the import of illegal timber."
At the end of 2004 Greenpeace and Quercus asked a number of Portuguese timber importers to support the campaign for EU legislation to stop the import of illegal timber. Two of them, Sardinha & Leite and Sonae Industria have now declared their support.
The organisations are now calling on all Portuguese importers to reject any timber onboard the Skyman that comes from companies with convictions for illegal logging and to obtain accreditation to trade timber from the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). FSC timber provides an independent guarantee that timber had come from forests managed to the highest ecological and social standards.
For further information:
Cristina Bodas, Greenpeace International Media in Portugal, + +31 6 46 197331
Domingos Patacho, Quercus, +351 9147 648 02
Gina Sanchez, Greenpeace International Communications in Amsterdam, +31627000064
During December 2004 the initial package of FLEGT measures was discussed for the first time at Ministerial level, during a meeting of the EU Agriculture Council. Seven member states made a joint declaration encouraging the Commission to come forward with further legislative options to control imports of illegally harvested timber. Portugal did not support this declaration.