MEPs have called for a "full and immediate" EU-wide ban on ivory and rhinoceros horn trade | International Fund for Animal Welfare
In a newly-adopted resolution, deputies also demanded common sanctions at EU level against wildlife trafficking.
This forms Parliament's response to an EU action plan unveiled last week by the European Commission.
The Commission initiative lists a series of measures to be taken by EU institutions and/or member states. The measures are designed to improve cooperation among all the players concerned so that wildlife trafficking can be better tackled across the EU and globally.
Wildlife trafficking is worth an estimated €20bn annually. It has grown in recent years, becoming one of the biggest and most profitable forms of organised cross-border crime.
British ALDE group MEP Catherine Bearder, who has authored a parliamentary report on the issue, said, "Wildlife trafficking is the fourth biggest organised criminal activity on the planet. It is high time we got really serious about it."
She added, "The penalties against wildlife trafficking must be very severe to reflect the seriousness of this crime and must be the same across the EU. I am delighted that MEPs are calling for a full and immediate EU-wide ban on the ivory trade."
The resolution adopted by Parliament's environment committee says the EU should review existing legislation with a view to supplementing it with a ban on the "making available and placing on the market, transport, acquisition and possession of wildlife that has been illegally harvested or traded in third countries."
MEPs said that "trophy hunting" has contributed to large-scale declines in certain species and urged the EU to deal with imports of hunting trophies from species protected under the EU wildlife trade regulations.
Deputies have warned that wildlife crime may be linked to other forms of organised crime, such as money laundering and the financing of militias and terrorist groups.
The text of the resolution urges member states to "use all relevant instruments, including cooperation with the financial sector, to reveal these links."
Operators of social media platforms, search engines and eCommerce platforms also have a role to play in combatting the problem of the illegal internet trade in wildlife, according to the resolution.
The report drafted by Bearder was adopted unanimously and will be put to a vote by the full plenary in November.
Meanwhile, Ginette Hemley, of the WWF, has called for an end to "all potential avenues to a resumption in international ivory trade."
Hemley wants the international community to "unite behind efforts to crack down on the illegal ivory trade."
She added, "African elephants are in steep decline across much of the continent due to poaching for their ivory, and opening up any legal trade in ivory would have complicated efforts to conserve them."