This story is so full of mistakes and half-truths that it makes my head hurt…
Yes, Canada has taken Reservations on all of the changes to the CITES species listings that were agreed to at CITES CoP 16 in Bangkok (2013). And no, I don’t like it either. But like it or not there is a logical reason for doing so.
Under existing government processes, staff can’t amend the Wild Animal and Plant Trade Regulations (WAPTR) to include the new CITES listings within the 90 days required by the Convention and Canadian law (as per the Wild Animal and Plant Protection and Regulation of International and Interprovincial Trade Act (WAPPRIITA). So the alternatives are either take out a reservation on all the listings until the amendments can be put in place (and then lift the reservations), or be in violation of Canadian law.
This hasn’t been a secret. Canada’s reservations were published by the CITES Secretariat back in June 2013 in Notification to the Parties No 2013/027 which states:
“In addition, on 5 June Canada entered a reservation with respect to all amendments to Appendices I and II of the Convention adopted at CoP16, owing to the necessity to complete its domestic legal requirements for the entry into force of these amendments.”
Attributing this information to “Recently released documents…” is absurd. Furthermore, this isn’t anything new. Canada did exactly the same thing after CoP 15. So stating that “It’s unprecedented” is also wrong.
Furthermore, CITES does not “block” trade. The purpose of CITES is to regulate trade and ensure that wildlife is utilized sustainably. Most of the changes to the listings made at CoP 16 were to list species on CITES Appendix II—which allows international commercial trade as long as the exporting country determines in advance that the trade is sustainable and legal; and that the proper documents (e.g. Export Permits) are in place. One can easily argue that when CITES is properly implemented, it is preferable to utilize listed species rather than unlisted species which may well be harvested and traded at unsustainable levels.
The article goes on to state that Canada has previously managed to produce regulations well within a 90-day grace period allowed under the treaty and includes the following quote:
“As far as I’m aware, this has never been a problem for Canada…”
Perhaps the reporter should have talked to someone that was a bit better informed. Canada has only met the 90 day deadline twice since WAPPRIITA came into effect in 1998: after CoP 11 (2000) and after Cop 13 (2004). I discussed this issue in my report CITES eh? back in 2004. [You can download a pdf copy directly here.] Canada missed the deadline by more than a year after 2014 and the authorities were rightly criticized for being in violation of Canadian law. And that is why, after CoP 15, Canada took out reservations on all of the changes to the CITES listing until WAPTR was amended.
Of course, a better way to address the problem would be to streamline the process such that the 90 day deadline could be readily met. The fact that Canada did indeed meet the deadline in 2000 and 2004 shows that it can be done. But rather than make that point, the article wraps up by trying to make a link to efforts by the USA to up-list the polar bear on CITES Appendix I. The article closes with the following paragraphs:
“Canada has been fighting a rearguard action at CITES over polar bears. It has been working to stop the organization from further restricting trade in polar bear parts.
Support for Canada’s position, however, has been declining.
In 2010, CITES considered banning all trade in polar bear parts and the European Union voted in a single bloc with Canada against it. In 2013, after major European countries including the United Kingdom and Germany said they opposed Canada’s polar bear hunt, the EU simply sat on its hands.”
This really has nothing to do with the subject of the story and is another misrepresentation of the facts.
The USA did indeed propose up-listing the polar bear to CITES Appendix I at both CoP 15 (2010) and Cop 16 (2013). And in both cases the proposal was rejected by the Parties (member countries). So the suggestion that support for Canada’s position has been declining seems like a bit of a misstatement.
Secondly, in 2013 the EU (which votes as a block) offered a counter proposal to keep the polar bear on Appendix II but with set export quotas; and no less than nine Decisions for actions to be taken by the CITES Secretariat, the polar bear range States, the Animals Committee and the 178 Parties (there are now 180). I would hardly call that the EU sitting on its hands!
The EU’s proposal was rejected, and the EU not surprisingly abstained on the US proposal to up-list polar bears to Appendix I. This is all documented in Summary record of the sixth session of Committee I.
These sort of articles are so frustrating. If the author had bothered to get his or her facts straight, and had maybe talked to more people who actually know and understand CITES, then the story could have been a valid criticism of Canada’s policy to take short term reservations on all CITES listings. But by salting the story with errors, half-truths, and innuendo the article seems to be designed more towards building outrage over a relatively minor issue than educating the Canadian public or influencing actual change to Canadian policy. Frankly, I expect better from the CBC.
I need to go take an aspirin…
December 11, 2014