Cetacean Society International

Whales Alive!

Vol. VIII No. 3 July 1999

Update on CITES

by Kate O'Connell, CSI Board

As Whales Alive! goes to press, a meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna (CITES) is taking place in Madagascar, off Africa's eastern coast. On the agenda of this special Animals Committee meeting is a request from the government of Japan that certain whale species' listings on Appendix 1 (which means that there is a total ban on international trade in those species) be reviewed; this would affect gray whales (E. robustus); Bryde's whales (B. edeni) and southern hemisphere and western north Pacific hemisphere minke whale stocks (B. acutorostrata).

This suggestion seems to be a means by which Japan can seek to avoid the recent IWC Resolution on Cooperation with CITES (see article above), by putting discussion of this issue into the IWC's Scientific Committee rather than having to go through full IWC plenary discussion and approval. This means that any CITES discussions could therefore be lacking complete information on the fact that the whaling moratorium is still in place, and that there are still no enforcement mechanisms up and running that could keep whale meat from being traded illegally. An example of this lack of enforcement came on July 1st, when it was revealed by Reuters that in Taiji, Wakayama Prefecture, a fisherman of the Taiji Fisheries Association had secretly landed a sperm whale, a highly protected species under the International Whaling Commission (IWC), and sold it to a dealer in the black market.

In addition to the Japanese attempts to go around the rules of the IWC, Norway has also submitted a plan to downlist to CITES Appendix II, the Northeast Atlantic stock and the North Atlantic Central stock of minke whale. This would effectively open up international trade in whale products; the reason for this move became clear when, on July 1st, an article in the Norwegian paper Aftenposten showed that whale meat processors are unable to sell all the meat that has been taken in the Norwegian hunt...even though the take this year is far below the quota that had been set. Norway granted 36 Norwegian whaling boats a quota of 753 minke whales for the May through early July hunt, up from a quota of 671 last year. As of June 30th, the whale hunters had killed 294 whales, nearly 100 fewer than at the same point a year ago.

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