Friday, March 19, 2010

30. UN Meeting Fails to Protect Bluefin Tuna and Polar Bears

According to a New York Times (March 18) article, delegates at a United Nations conference on endangered species in Doha, Qatar, soundly defeated American-supported proposals on Thursday to ban international trade in bluefin tuna and to protect polar bears.

"Atlantic and Mediterranean stocks of bluefin, a fish prized especially by Japanese sushi lovers for its fatty belly flesh, have been severely depleted by years of heavy commercial fishing, while polar bears are considered threatened by hunting and the loss of sea ice because of global warming. The United States tried unsuccessfully to persuade delegates to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, or Cites, to provide strong international protection for the two species.

"'It wasn’t a very good day for conservation,' said Juan Carlos Vásquez, a spokesman for the United Nations organization. 'It shows the governments are not ready to adopt trade bans as a way to protect species.'”

Delegates voted down the proposal to protect bluefin by 68 to 20, with 30 abstentions. The polar bear measure failed by 62 to 48, with 11 abstentions.

The reasons for the failure of Doha conference are similar to causes for the failure of Copenhagen Climate Change conference. In both cases, environmental and ecological crises are treated as market failure in need of market regulations. This framework leaves ample room for national rivalries with various ruling classes and elites trying to protect their own systems of production and consumption. Nature is treated as production and consumption resource.

"The rejection of the bluefin proposal was a clear victory for the Japanese government, which had vowed to go all out to stop the measure or else exempt itself from complying with it. Japan, which consumes nearly 80 percent of the bluefin catch..."

"Canada, Greenland and several indigenous communities, which led the effort to defeat the proposal to protect the polar bear, contended that the bear population was healthy and that it could sustain limited hunting and trade in pelts and body parts.

"While there is near-universal agreement that the bluefin stocks are in danger, Japan’s argument resonated with other fishing nations, which were uneasy about what would have been the first intrusion of the endangered species convention into a major commercial fishery."

Thursday’s vote was the second time Japan had defeated a proposal to protect bluefin. A similar proposal by Sweden failed at the 1992 Cites meeting in Kyoto, Japan.

Attention at the Doha conference will now turn to proposals to protect sharks and elephants.

"The United States, the Micronesian state of Palau and the European Union are among nations proposing that several species of sharks be listed under Appendix 2 of the convention, which would require that governments monitor trade in the species but would not entail an outright ban. But with Japan leading the opposition to any United Nations involvement in the regulation of marine species, and China, the largest consumer of shark fins, strongly opposed, the prospects of a deal appear remote.

"The elephant talks will center on a proposal by Tanzania and Zambia to resume trade in elephant ivory, but Kenya and some other African nations argue that trade will bring only more poaching."

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