Japan whaling – CITES fails to act on imports

Japanese import of sei whale products is a persistent violation of CITES rules
Monday, 27 November, 2017
Geneva, Switzerland

The world’s most important conservation body has avoided taking action against Japan for its trade in endangered sei whales. While many governments expressed concern, ultimately it was decided only to seek more information from Japan at this time and delay any decision to the following meeting.


“Governments at CITES are failing to hold Japan to account,” said Matt Collis, Director of International Policy for IFAW speaking from the 69th Standing Committee meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) being held in Geneva this week.


“For 15 years Japan has been bringing sei whale meat and parts into Japan for commercial sale which is strictly not allowed by CITES, yet no action is taken to censure them,” he said.


Sei whales are listed on Appendix I of CITES meaning international trade in their products is banned. As Japan mostly hunts sei whales on the high seas beyond its national jurisdiction, under CITES provisions bringing these products into Japan is considered international trade.


“Japan has been importing and selling sei whale products since 2002; this is a persistent and intentional violation of CITES rules yet the only decision governments at CITES have taken today is to ask for more information, rather than make a determination of non-compliance,” said Collis. “And all the while the slaughter of an endangered species continues. It’s hard to think of any other issue or country that would be treated this way.”


Japan presents their whaling as a ‘scientific’ endeavor but the reason for the whaling is irrelevant to CITES, it is the end use of the products once introduced into Japan that matters. The vast majority of each sei whale is packaged purely for commercial use, amounting to thousands of tonnes of sei whale meat at the cost of the lives of over 1,400 sei whales in the last 15 years.  However, Japan uses CITES certificates which should only cover the importation of limited scientific samples, to import sei whale meat and parts for the express purpose of commercial sale throughout Japan.


“CITES doesn’t need any more information on this issue. Even Japan doesn’t dispute what ends up happening to sei whales once they are brought into Japan – they actively promote the sale of whale meat. This should be a simple decision for CITES, and by failing to take action it suggests governments are willing to turn a blind eye to a developed nation openly trading in a banned species, while at the same time throwing the book at developing countries without the capacity to implement CITES,” said Collis.


IFAW is urging governments to make a finding of non-compliance against Japan at the next Standing Committee meeting in Russia in October 2018, when the CITES Secretariat will report back from its information-gathering.


About IFAW

Founded in 1969, IFAW rescues and protects animals around the world. With projects in more than 40 countries, IFAW rescues individual animals, works to prevent cruelty to animals, and advocates for the protection of wildlife and habitats. For more information, visit www.ifaw.org. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter. Photos are available at www.ifawimages.com



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