The international convention that helped save the elephant and rhino from extinction at the hands of poachers is now being ignored by the Japanese Fisheries Agency to continue whaling in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.
Activists in Japan demand illegal whale meat aboard the Panamanian-flagged Oriental Bluebird be refused by customs.
On January 22nd 2008, we documented with photographs and video the transfer of whale meat from the Japanese registered factory whaling ship, the Nissin Maru, to the Panamanian registered cargo ship, the Oriental Bluebird.
Under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), it is illegal to trade animals and plants listed on Appendix 1 across international borders.
The Oriental Bluebird has now docked in Tokyo Bay to unload it's cargo of minke whale meat, completing the international trade that started in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary over two months ago.
Appendix 1 of CITES lists nearly 900 plant and animal species and includes all the 'great' whales like humpback, fin and minke whales.
Japan has filed what is known as a 'reservation' to the listing of many whale species on Appendix 1, which allows it to ignore some restrictions on trade in minke whales. But, because Panama has ratified the treaty without reservations, it cannot commercially import or export minke whale.
Transfering the whale meat from the Japanese registered Nissin Maru to the Panamanian registered Oriental Bluebird, which then unloads the meat in a Japanese port is therefore illegal under both the rules of CITES and Panamanian law.
"Japan's research whaling programme is a national embarrassment," said Greenpeace Japan Whales Project Leader Junichi Sato, "it is riddled with illegalities and instances where international law has been bent, broken, and bypassed; it continues to strain relations with our allies around the world and tarnish Japan's reputation. It's time for Japan to stop whaling in the Southern Ocean forever."
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) was set up in 1973 to protect animals and plants against over-exploitation through international trade.
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