Polar bear, Atlantic bluefin tuna are big losers at CITES | KEYE Austin - Green Right Now
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Mar 182010
Image: Photog, USFWS

Image: Susanne Miller, USFWS

From Green Right Now Reports

An initiative to put an end to international trophy hunting and commercial trade in polar bear parts was defeated in a vote at the United Nations’ Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in Doha, Qatar. The same group also voted down a proposal to ban the export of Atlantic bluefin tuna, a fish used extensively in sushi and sashimi.

The proposal to protect the polar bear was sponsored by the United States and supported by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) among other groups. NRDC lawyers and conservation experts have asserted that the bears suffer unsustainably high harvest levels in the face of trophy hunters and a market for pelts, paws, teeth and other parts.

“While there has been a lot of positive momentum in polar bear conservation recently, this is a real setback,” said Andrew Wetzler, Director of NRDC’s Wildlife Conservation Project. “It keeps some of the most important populations of polar bears squarely in the crosshairs. We will continue work to find a new way to protect polar bears from this unsustainable hunt.”

A 2007 report by the U.S. Geological Survey offered a “conservative” estimate that the total population of polar bears would decline by over 70 percent in the next 45 years as global warming literally melts their habitat. A year later, the U.S. listed the polar bear as threatened under the Endangered Species Act.

The proposal before CITES sought to “uplist” the species to the more highly protected class 1 status under international treaty. It was defeated by a vote of 62-48 with 11 abstentions.

Photo: NOAA

Image: NOAA

Meanwhile, only the United States, Norway and Kenya offered outright support for the Atlantic bluefin ban, while the European Union asked that any action be delayed until May 2011 to provide more time to respond to claims of overfishing.

Japan, which imports 80 percent of Atlantic bluefin, conceded that stocks were in trouble but echoed a growing theme that CITES should have no role in regulating tuna and other marine species.

Japan expressed willingness to accept lower quotas for bluefin tuna but wanted those to come from the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), which currently regulates the trade.