In Bangkok, Thailand a joint Russian and US proposal to protect polar bears from international trade has failed.
In no short measure this is thanks to the EU failing to vote in favour. Indeed, the EU's fumbles at trying to achieve a compromise that pandered to Denmark and its Greenlanders (who don't export polar bears, but want their friends in Canada to be able to do so) demonstrates how the the views of some 50,000 people in Greenland have outweighed the majority of hundreds of millions in the rest of Europe. Maybe some other EU member states were also not convinced, but the lack of transparency in the EU's decision making makes it almost impossible for us to know.
Noting how Denmark has sought to bludgeon the EU in the whaling debate, we can only suspect at this stage.
The World Conservation Union (IUCN) has been reported to say that the polar bear population will decline some 30% over the next 45 years, but CITES appears to have a generic guidance that says the projected decline needs to be more than 50% over three generations – 45 years in the polar bear case, before action can take place.
The problem with such large long lived mammal species, is that, in a world where we are losing Arctic ice at the same time, will there be enough habitat to allow for recovery when polar bears have passed the 'magic' 50% figure?
You can read how Canada, Denmark and unfortunately even a 'conservation' group, helped keep polar bears in trouble in the Guardian's coverage of the ongoing CITES meeting.
WDC has one question to the EU and that is what will it do now as its compromise proposal failed? Do they just walk away or are they working to get something achieved?
If they do, then lets please ensure that Denmark cannot vote internally to force other EU countries into an abstention. If Poland, the UK, Germany and others want to vote for better polar bear conservation lets get on and do it. The ambiguous procedural rules of the Lisbon Treaty are now becoming a mill store around the EU's neck when the EU was meant to be able to take action.
Advocate General Maduro in Case C-246/07 Commission v Sweden strongly supports the freedom of EU member countries to insist action in this type of issue.
the Advocate General states;
‘…The distribution of competences operated by the Treaty is biased towards action: neither Member States nor the Community can block the other from pursuing a higher level of protection of the environment.’
At 57 the Advocate General states;
‘I am sympathetic to the argument that Member States must not be caught in a never-ending process, in which a final decision by the Community is postponed to the point of inaction. If that proves to be the case, a decision should be deemed to have been taken and Member States should be allowed to act’.
In Bangkok, Thailand a joint Russian and US proposal to protect polar bears from international trade has failed.
Whilst the US and the Russian Federation have managed to agree that the polar bear deserves the protection of banning trade at this years CITES meeting in Bangkok, Thailand, it appears that Denmark and Greenland alongside Canada are determined to ensure that the polar bear is not protected come hell or high water.
Yes, polar bears are threatened by climate change and rising seas, but they are also significantly threatened by increasing hunting and trade. It is estimated that only 20–25,000 polar bears now remain in the world and 15,000 of those live in Canada, where they are increasingly hunted for their skins and other parts as well as simply for sport.
The EU, with its 27 votes at the CITES conference, has the duty to help protect this key species. But it appears that the EU has put forward a compromise proposal that would keep polar bears off the necessary Appendix I and would effectively put off the discussion about what to do.
This proposal is not what many EU governments promised or what the EU Parliament voted for, - and indeed may compromise the EU completely.
As some of you would know form these blogs WDC has been challenging the EU to clarify its voting procedures at these major environmental conventions. In a previous CITES meeting the EU Commission attempted to arm-wrestle pro-conservation countries into taking a weaker stance on a proposal to protect bluefin tuna.
On that occasion the EU put forward a compromise proposal but it was subsequently defeated, but the Commission then forbid any EU member state from voting for the original stricter proposal and instructed member states to abstain. There was even rumours of discussions in back rooms of fining countries that actually stood up and voted for protection.
Now we find ourselves in the potentially the same position.
The EU has put forward a compromise on the polar bear, but what if it loses that vote? Will the EU tell Germany, the UK, and other EU Member states that they can not vote with the USA and Russia for effective protection?
The EU has been gutted in the IWC by Denmark acting for Greenland in the past, lets just hope to goodness that this is not the case again.
EU member states should reject the compromise, but if they don't, then they should have the right to uphold EU law and vote for what they know is right.
Its time for this Denmark induced nightmare to end.
You can read more on this unfolding story on the Guardian newspaper website
You can read more on Denmark and the issue of the EU and whaling here
Our colleague Vanessa Williams-Grey is in Sri Lanka for Whale and Dolphin Conservation helping the people of Sri Lanka establish responsible whale watching. All photos courtesy Andrew Sutton.
She writes from the field from what sounds like a stunning part of the world.
Engaging with the whale watch community at Mirissa, Sri Lanka
Believe me, I’m as surprised as anyone to find myself writing about blue whales from what can only be described as possibly the best ‘outdoor office’ in the world. I’ve rigged up my laptop so that I can sit, swinging precariously - and thus typing equally precariously - from a hammock slung between two palm trees, barely metres from the ocean. My ears are full of the sound of waves crashing and the guttural squarks of birds flying from tree to tree. It’s green here, very green, and each evening, the air is heady with the scent of frangipani, whilst at dawn, stilt fishermen take up their positions perched atop impossibly flimsy-looking wooden poles in the ocean outside our villa.
Welcome to Mirissa, southern Sri Lanka. We are staying for a week as guests of Sri Lankan Airlines and their tourism partners, Jetwing Hotels and John Keells Group, as we embark on a joint project to engage with the local whale watching community and – hopefully – work together to make whale watching here as good as it possibly can be. Because, despite appearances, all has not been entirely well in Paradise.
Continue reading "Best for blues?"
On Sunday March 3rd, thousands of people, including delegates representing 178 countries, convened in Bangkok, for the 16th meeting of the Conference of Parties (or ‘COP’) of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).
WDC has a small team at the meeting and on the agenda are issues that will affect the lives and conservation of many animals; amongst these are a little-known large marine mammal from the west coast of Africa, the polar bear and a number of sharks and rays.
We have invited Mark Peter Simmonds to introduce the issues for us.
Continue reading "CITES - No whales this year, but other marine mammals under pressure"
It seems that three years later, the two chefs and the owner of the Hump in Santa Monica have been charged with conspiracy to import and sell sei whale meat, a violation of the United States Marine Mammal Protection Act.
The Los Angeles Times reports that a federal grand jury has indicted the owners of the parent company and two of its onetime chefs, charging them with felonies that carry lengthy prison terms of up to 67 years in federal prison. The restaurant's parent company is reported to potentially faces a fine of US$1.2 million.
WDC is pleased to see that the US authorities are taking this crime seriously, but we are still awaiting to hear how the European Commission is going to react to our revelations that whale meat was freely available to tourists in Denmark. The sale to tourists both in Denmark and in Greenland means that more whales are dying than are actually needed to feed native GreenlaNders for whom any IWC whaling quota is meant for.
Lets hope the EU Commission take this as seriously as the US and stamps out this illegal trade once and for all. We will let you know when the Commission lets us know.
The issue of whaling and the killing of dolphins is a highly emotive one. It can stir passions in all of us, and I am still staggered at the brutality of some of the things people do to our cetacean cousins.
However, it's critical that we focus our passion to achieve the end goal of ending these hunts and not allow our dislike of the practice of whaling spill over into vitriol against those who practice the killing of whales and dolphins. You know the old saying 'hate the act, not the person'.
What we are trying do is bring more compassion into the world, not inflate more hatred. The success of the WDC campaign against Icelandic whaling is not down to being 'anti-Icelandic' but by being 'anti-Icelandic whaling' and in particular Grandi, the driving force behind the fin whaling and Iceland's position at the IWC.
When it comes to the Faroes, the images are terrible and heart-wrenching, but again, hatred against the Faroese will not bring an end to the hunt. Helene Hesselager O’Barry writes eloquently on this subject and her latest blog is well worth a read.
I see a parent has quite rightly complained about their daughter being bitten by a dolphin at SeaWorld in their petting pools.
WDC reported this risk and incidents of previous bites some years ago, but SeaWorld were allowed to continue this circus trick. You can see our full report here Biting the Hand
One thing has always bugged me about the petting pools. Well actually a lot of things do, but one question is whether individual dolphins are being overfed or underfed? To keep the dolphins 'keen' to take fish from visitors, do they need to be hungry? And what happens if one dolphin gets more fish than they should? Are they withdrawn from the show?
However, I also noticed that the UK's daily Express was reporting that US ex-Navy trained dolphins had been loaned to SeaWorld. WDC has often spoken out against the use of dolphins in military exercises, but I cannot help feeling that dolphins that have been trained in underwater combat situations should not be sent to captive display facilities to do 'tricks' for the general public.
I have no idea if the ex-Navy dolphins ever end up in the SeaWorld concrete tanks used for the petting pools, but it makes you wonder doesn't it?
It seems that the Japanese Government and the Institute of Cetacean Research is getting desperate in its attempts to prove that their so-called 'scientific whaling' is more than an ongoing exercise in self-preservation. Having suffered campaigns to end sales of whale meat on online stores by intermediaries the Government is going digital in order to make some money itself.
Reports out of Japan indicate that Japan's Fishery Agency has announced that starting next year, individuals can
purchase meat by mail order and it will also be sold directly to
restaurants. Previously, sales were made only to wholesale distributors.
This raises a significant cause for concern as Japan has historically been unable to regulate illegal sales of whale meat even when it controls supplies.
It seems that by allowing for online sales Japan is going to significantly increase the risk of abuse by unscrupulous dealers. I for one think the risk of smuggling of whale meat products will also increase as it will become more difficult to track who is purchasing whale meat over the internet.
Lets see how many examples of whale meat trafficking we see reported in the coming months and years?
Lets also see what other countries meeting at the CITES (Convention in Trade in Endangered Species) meeting of parties in the new year think about it?
It seems the statements of the US National Aquarium and Merlin Entertainments against the proposed import of belugas by the Georgia Aquarium are creating quite a stir.
In the past the display industry has seemed to hold its tongue even when some may have disagreed with what colleagues in the industry were up to, but now some have the courage and the willingness to distinguish themselves as being different and in pursuit of a different vision.
Fingers crossed that their vision is a foundation for a future without live captures of whales and dolphins and eventually, even an end to all cetacean captivity.
The recent reports on accusations that monies designated for tsunami reconstruction have been misspent should not come as a shock. But what is really more shocking is the Japanese media's previous indifference to the story.
I say we should be shocked, but should we really? A Japanese press that has been unwilling, except in some exceptional circumstances, to question its government on the issue of whaling policy, may not be willing to rock the boat on other matters either.
Its seems that projects financed by the $150bn (£93bn) fund include an ad campaign for Japan's tallest building and support for whaling so-called 'research'.
But why has the government taken such a position? it seems that the pork-barrel of Japanese politics is coming home to roost.
Among the expenses listed are $30 million dollars for Japan’s yearly whale hunt, $380,000 to promote Tokyo Sky Tree, the world’s tallest free-standing broadcast tower, free training for fighter pilots and a subsidy for a contact-lens factory located nowhere near the site of the disaster-hit coast.
At first the initial audit report was 'largely ignored by the Japanese media, as clientelism – the allocation of budget money to those with close ties, often in exchange for political support, is not unusual in the country’s politics.' reports rt.com
“Exploiting the construction effort is treacherous to the first degree,” proclaimed a Tokyo Shimbun editorial.
Rt.com goes onto note that Yoshimitsu Shiozaki, an academic specializing in urban planning at Kobe University, who has conducted his own survey of the spending, believes that little will be done to reverse the spending priorities. "But this time the funds are being used in a more deceptive way," said Shiozaki.
Its a mark of a countries democracy that the public and media can hold their government's to account.
The Japanese people must begin to question why a stagnant and costly industry such as whaling that benefits so few is receiving such preferential treatment, whilst millions of people are still suffering from the recent disasters? Who in government and the civil service is benefiting and who has their finger on the bank account?