It’s been quite a week over at the meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). Up for discussion was a ban on hunting polar bears and bluefin tuna. The discussions yielded some predictably (and yet still astonishingly) shortsighted conclusions.
The delegates rejected a ban on polar bear hunting because “hunting is not the most serious threat the polar bear faces” (recall that the bear was listed as endangered last year because of the pressures created by climate change and the consequent loss of icepack). Here’s a simple logical sequence: Hunting kills bears. If people stopped hunting them that would be one less thing killing bears. Unfortunately, this reasoning did not carry the day. Rather, opponents successfully argued that there is no point to killing fewer bears until we know for certain that we won’t kill them some other way. Follow this reasoning with me if you will. It is like refusing to treat your compound fracture until you’re certain that there exists a cure for your brain tumor.
But there’s more. The bluefin tuna, which is being hunted into extinction by the world’s fishing fleet, will remain unprotected. Japan led an effort to squash the proposed ban on bluefin hunting because it claimed that the catch should be regulated by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas, or Iccat. Iccat has consistently failed to set quotas anywhere near what its own scientists say is necessary to preserve the species but, even if it did, the Commission would have absolutely no enforcement authority anyway.
Even as they acknowledged that the species was in danger of extinction, the Japanese argued that Iccat should set catch limits that it had no authority to enforce and had never come close to advocating while the U.N. should do nothing. The international community agreed. The defeat of the proposed measure provided a huge victory for the Japanese delegation, who had lobbied delegates on Wednesday night with a reception featuring, you guessed it, lots of bluefin sushi.
The delegates turn next to preserving sharks, which China – the largest consumer of shark fins in the world – has pledged to block. They will also consider a measure to protect elephants, in the face Tanzania and Zambia’s wish to resume trade in ivory. Any optimists left out there?
Sometimes, I just want to move far away. Oh wait – I did. It didn’t help.
Filed under: animal law, endangered species, environmental law, fishing, hunting Tagged: | animal abuse, animal advocacy, animal cruelty, animal law, animal suffering, animal welfare, bluefin, CITES, Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, e, elephants, endangered species, environmental advocacy, environmental ethics, environmental law, ivory, Japan, polar bears, shark fins, sharks, tuna