Numerous uncertainties in the multifaceted global trade in frogs’ legs with the EU as the major consumer
The commercial trade in frogs and their body parts is global, dynamic and occurs in extremely large volumes (in the thousands of tonnes/yr or billions of frogs/yr). The European Union (EU) remain the single largest importer of frogs’ legs, with most frogs still caught from the wild. Amongst the many drivers of species extinction or population decline (e.g. due to habitat loss, climate change, disease etc.), overexploitation is becoming increasingly more prominent. Due to global declines and extinctions, new attention is being focused on these markets, in part to try to ensure sustainability. While the trade is plagued by daunting realities of data deficiency and uncertainty and the conflicts of commercial interests associated with these data, it is clear that EU countries are most responsible for the largest portion of the international trade in frogs’ legs of wild species. Over decades of exploitation, the EU imports have contributed to a decline in wild frog populations in an increasing number of supplying countries, such as India and Bangladesh, as well as Indonesia, Turkey and Albania more recently. However, there have been no concerted attempts by the EU and present export countries to ensure sustainability of this trade. Further work is needed to validate species identities, secure data on wild frog populations, establish reasonable monitored harvest/export quotas and disease surveillance and ensure data integrity, quality and security standards for frog farms. Herein, we call upon those countries and their representative governments to assume responsibility for the sustainability of the trade. The EU should take immediate action to channel all imports through a single centralised database and list sensitive species in the Annexes of the EU Wildlife Trade Regulation. Further, listing in CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) can enforce international trade restrictions. More joint efforts are needed to improve regional monitoring schemes before the commercial trade causes irreversible extinctions of populations and species of frogs.