Push to lift hunting ban on endangered species

A A A

The hard-won protection for the world's largest animals will be placed in serious danger at an international meeting being held next week.

The hard-won protection for the world's largest animals will be placed in serious danger at an international meeting being held next week.

The two agreements that halted whales' and elephants'slide to extinction through unchecked hunting - the 1986 whaling moratorium and the 1990 ban on the ivory trade - may both by undermined at the conference in Nairobi, Kenya, of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites) which opens a week today. The meeting could mark a drastic reversal of the gradual but steady progress made in international conservation since the Sixties.

The agenda is brutally simple. Two countries, Japan and Norway, want to reopen the international trade in whale meat; four African countries, Botswana, Namibia, Zimbabwe and South Africa, want to reopen the international trade in elephant ivory and hides. Commerce in both is outlawed around the world.

African elephants and many whale species were on the way to extinction when their hunting was stopped. But the Japanese and Norwegians now argue that the whale species they wish to trade in, minke whales and eastern Pacific gray whales, have healthy stocks and are in no way threatened with extinction. The African nations make the same point about the elephant populations of their particular countries.

Conservationists counter that in both cases renewed trading in healthy populations of the animals, even on an ostensibly limited scale, will open the floodgates to a massive expansion of hunting, and not only legal hunting: pirate whaling and elephant poaching will flourish again, they say, once there is a legal market into which the produce can be sold.

Britain is against both moves and Elliot Morley, the Agriculture minister who has responsibility for whaling, hopes to attend the conference.

The whaling issue is the more immediately crucial. The moratorium was imposed by the body that regulates commercial whaling, the International Whaling Commission (IWC), and once it was brought in, Cites automatically outlawed all trade in the animals.

Neither the Japanese nor the Norwegians have ever accepted the ban. The Japanese have continued to hunt under a loophole that permits whaling for research purposes, although all the meat is sold for human consumption, while the Norwegians registered a formal objection at the time and have continued commercial whaling. Yet the number of animals they kill is limited by the fact that whale meat cannot be legally traded internationally; the Norwegians cannot sell to the Japanese, or vice versa.

Every year, the two countries attempt to have the bans lifted but are consistently outvoted at the conference of the IWC, which has fewer than 50 members, most of them conservation minded. Three years ago they switched their attention to Cites, whose 150 member countries includes many which are less committed to conservation.

The tactic nearly paid off: in the 1997 Cites meeting in Harare, Zimbabwe, Japan and Norway succeeded in getting a simple majority for reopening trade in whale meat, but not the two-thirds majority necessary for the move to go through.

Since then they have conducted an extensive lobbying campaign to raise the vote. Green groups allege that Norway is spending large sums on public relations and that Japan is actually offering aid packages to developing states in return for their votes. Greenpeace's whaling campaigner, Richard Page, said: "People should wake up to the fact that Norway and Japan could win this vote and turn the clock back."

Mr Morley said: "Let's be clear about what's at stake here. If Japan and Norway are successful ... then it blows the moratorium wide open and reintroduces commercial whaling. If you start trading minke whales, people will sell whale meat from other species. We know it's been going on. I think Japan and Norway think [they can] use Cites to undermine the moratorium, and we have to make sure it doesn't happen."

The position with regard to African elephants is remarkably similar, with conservationists fearing that reopening the trade with the four countries concerned, which admittedly have healthy, well-managed elephant stocks, would simply pave the way for the Eighties poaching slaughter to begin again all across the continent.

Three years ago in Harare, the first breach was made in the ivory ban when Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe sought and won approval for the sale to Japan of large amounts of ivory from their legally held government stocks. This was meant to be a strictly one-off measure, subject to exacting conditions about new monitoring, enforcement and control measures on the illegal killing of elephants.

Now the three states, joined by South Africa, want to make it a permanent arrangement.

News
Young Winstone: His ‘tough-guy’ image is a misconception
people
Sport
Adnan Januzaj and Gareth Bale
footballManchester United set to loan out Januzaj to make room for Bale - if a move for the Welshman firms up
Arts and Entertainment
Ellie Levenson’s The Election book demystifies politics for children
bookNew children's book primes the next generation for politics
News
Outspoken: Alexander Fury, John Rentoul, Ellen E Jones and Katy Guest
newsFrom the Scottish referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Sport
Yaya Sanogo, Mats Hummels, Troy Deeney and Adnan Januzaj
footballMost Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
Arts and Entertainment
L to R: Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner), Captain America (Chris Evans) & Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) in Avengers Assemble
film
News
Nigel Farage celebrates with a pint after early local election results in the Hoy and Helmet pub in South Benfleet in Essex
peopleHe has shaped British politics 'for good or ill'
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell Williams' “Happy” was the most searched-for song lyric of 2014
musicThe power of song never greater, according to our internet searches
Sport
Tim Sherwood raises his hand after the 1-0 victory over Stoke
footballFormer Tottenham boss leads list of candidates to replace Neil Warnock
Arts and Entertainment
Sink the Pink's 2013 New Year's Eve party
musicFour of Britain's top DJs give their verdict on how to party into 2015
Voices
Strictly Come Dancing was watched by 6.9m viewers
voicesIt has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Arts and Entertainment
Roffey says: 'All of us carry shame and taboo around about our sexuality. But I was determined not to let shame stop me writing my memoir.'
books
News
i100
News
Caplan says of Jacobs: 'She is a very collaborative director, and gives actors a lot of freedom. She makes things happen.'
people
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

How we met

Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

Who does your club need in the transfer window?

Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

Michael Calvin's Last Word

From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015