Endangered Species Trade Laws Weak as Fin Whale Crosses Canada to Japan

Endangered Species

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna (CITES), which Environment Canada has been the lead agency responsible for its implementation, lists fin whales as an endangered species.  So how could the endangered species, with trade laws in place, make its way from the North Atlantic Ocean to the shores of Eastern Canada, then crossing the country by train en route to Japan?

That is something that Greenpeace and environmentalists around the globe are trying to figure out.  Environment Canada checked the shipment that arrived in Halifax, Nova Scotia from Iceland and had to let them pass through the country due to a rather counterproductive clause in the agreement stating that both countries must agree on the listing of the containers being shipped. Since Japan and Iceland do not consider the fin whale to be an endangered species, the listing of the containers were not agreed upon and therefore simply allowed to use Canada to transport the containers to Japan.

Though Environment Canada declined interviews they did state in an email that as long as the shipment of the at risk animals remains in customs control the convention will provide an exemption.  Canada has never before been involved in the transport of whale meat before the EC confirmed.

The oceans campaign coordinator for Greenpeace, Sarah King, does not want this sort of thing happening in the future.  “To think that they shipped not only to a Canadian port but then by rail across Canada was definitely an eye opener.” She went on to say that countries can adopt harsher regulations, and that this was not prevented by CITES. for the animals by  It seems purposeless for Canada to say they protect animals near extinction then allow the shipment, of the endangered fin whale, to cross Canada to Japan simply because the trade laws are weak.  “The fact that the Canadian Government has a commitment to protect endangered species and they need to live up to that commitment and not allowed to trade these species through the country.” says King.

The United Kingdom’s director for the International Fund for Animal Welfare, Robbie Marsland, questions Ottawa’s stance that they required to allow the shipment through.  Marsland acknowledges the convention rules of exemption when dealing with the shipment of animals facing extinction but no one in his organization has yet found anything in Canadian Law to support that.

There seems to be holes in the entire international endangered species movement.  Even though an animal is on the endangered species list they can still be caught under the guise of science.  That is how Japan keeps getting away with the slaughtering of thousands of whales per year for purposes of “science”.

Iceland has stopped commercial whaling in 1986 and in 1989 put an end to whaling for scientific reasons also.  But in 2003 their scientific whaling resumed. 1979 over 750,000 of the species were killed leaving the fin whales to be a rare sight in the oceans today.

It is numbers like these that ignite the passion and anger in environmentalist worldwide.  It seems that the general consensus is that the Canadian Government needs to tighten up the weak trading laws when unprotected animals are involved because using Canada as a highway for endangered species to bring them to Japan, or any where else, seems to go against the commitment that the Canadian Government has taken on this very issue.

By Derik L. Bradshaw

CBC News
City News Toronto

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