Japan recently expanded its illegal whale catch to include endangered Sei whales. The Japanese government is trying to re-open the international trade in whales at CITES.
"When the last individual of a race
of living things breathes no more, another heaven and another earth
must pass before such a one can be again."
- Twentieth century naturalist and
explorer William Beebe
Each year billions of dollars worth of international wildlife
trade is done. Larger numbers of at-risk species would end their
days as musical instruments, coats, jewellery or gourmet treats if
it weren't for the UN Convention on International Trade in
Endangered Species (CITES). With 160 members, CITES boasts that not
one of the 30,000 species it controls, from elephants to frogs to
orchids, has become extinct as a result of trade since the
Convention entered into force in 1975.
Will this positive record continue? There are 54 proposals on
the table at this CITES meeting, but not all of them push for more
protection. In fact, some highly controversial proposals concerning
whales and elephants would actually undermine species
No! to trade in whales & elephants
Greenpeace vigorously opposes a proposal from the Japanese
government to "downlist" stocks of minke and Bryde's whales. (Read
more in our
feature article on whales.) Right now, CITES lists whales under
Appendix I, which excludes them from international commercial trade
except in very special circumstances. By proposing to downlist
these whale species to CITES Appendix II, whales would be open to
commercial trade on the basis of CITES permits or certificates.
international trade in any form would be disastrous for whales. The
commercial harvest of whales proved utterly impossible to manage in
the past. The CITES Secretariat has recommended that member nations
oppose the Japanese proposals because they are contrary to CITES
own rules, and to its long-standing agreement to harmonise CITES
whales regulation with the International Whaling Commission's ban
on harvesting whales.
Five proposals to trade in ivory from African elephants must
also be opposed. Southern African countries have accumulated ivory
stockpiles which cannot be traded. Yet even this international ban
has not stopped the destruction. Poaching of elephants continues in
both Africa and Asia and ivory exports have been seized. Greenpeace
believes five proposals from African countries to trade their ivory
stockpiles would be a big mistake. Experience shows the legal trade
would fuel the illegal - an increase in poaching and expanded
illegal trade across borders.
Unlike these proposals for elephants and whales, there are some
very important CITES proposals for protection which must receive
support in Santiago.
Yes! to protection for mahogany & toothfish
The thirst for profits drives an international trade in
mahogany, a trade fuelling broader rainforest destruction in the
Brazilian Amazon. (
Read more in this feature story.) Even Brazil's moratorium on
harvesting and exporting mahogany has failed to stop the crime, and
this "green gold" continues flow out of protected Indian lands and
into prestigious northern showrooms. The proposal to list mahogany
under Appendix II must be strongly supported by CITES members,
because it would help eliminate this illegal harvest and trade.
Another key proposal would address the grave problem of rampant
and illegal overfishing of Patagonian and Antarctic toothfish in
the remote Southern Ocean.
(Read more here in our feature story.) Without effective
protection, these fisheries could collapse in ten years or sooner.
This fishery also results in a tragic bycatch of rare and
endangered sea birds, like the highly-endangered Amsterdam
albatross. If successful, the proposal to list toothfish under
CITES Appendix II would support existing conservation efforts and
stave off the toothfish's current slide toward commercial
You can take action to help the Chilean Sea Bass. Send a fax to the CITES delegation asking them
to support the Australian proposal and list toothfish on CITES