E.U. Opposes Whaling and Is Undecided on Ivory at CITES
BANGKOK The European Union looked set on Tuesday to harpoon a Japanese bid to resume commercial trade in whale products but has yet to take a stand on a Namibian attempt to loosen restrictions on ivory sales.
The E.U.'s vote is key at the two-week Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) conference because its 25 member states adopt common positions and vote together.
CITES has 166 member countries. Only one E.U. member, Cyprus, is not present yet.
Japan has proposed that some stocks of minke whales be shifted from a CITES list of most-endangered animals, in which international trade is banned, to a less-endangered category, where trade would be possible.
If the Bangkok meeting approves the move, it would increase pressure on the International Whaling Commission (IWC) to drop its moratorium on the hunting of all whale species that can be sustainably hunted, a term some environmentalists dismiss.
But the European Union said it thought the IWC should have the final say on the matter.
"The IWC has not yet agreed that the time is right for a resumption of commercial whaling. Therefore, the E.U. does not agree to Japan's request to allow commercial trade in minke whales," the E.U. said in a statement on Tuesday.
The E.U.'s votes could prove decisive on the issue as Japan lobbies furiously behind the scenes for the two-thirds support it would need to clinch the vote.
"I think Japan may just get a majority, not two-thirds, but it would present that at home as a psychological victory," said Susan Lieberman, director of WWF International's Species Program.
Japan hunts some whales for what it terms scientific research, but the meat often ends up on store shelves and in gourmet restaurants.
African Ivory Consensus?
The E.U. vote could also prove decisive on a Namibian request to auction two tons of raw ivory each year, and the E.U. is holding its cards close to its chest on this divisive issue.
"At the moment, we don't want to commit ourselves to anything until the African states reach a consensus themselves on the ivory issue, and they are discussing that," said Colman O'Criodain, a scientist with the E.U. delegation.
An African consensus is unlikely, with Kenya strongly opposed to any global resumption of the ivory trade on the grounds that it would spark a surge in elephant poaching.
The E.U. has also yet to make a final decision on a Kenyan proposal to tighten controls on trade in lions.
The issues are expected to come before the meeting later this week or early next week.
Permission to hold once-off ivory auctions was granted to Namibia, Botswana, and South Africa in 2002, but many of the pre-conditions have not yet been completed, including detailed feedback to CITES on trends in the illegal killing of elephants.