March 18, 2010

UN Rejects Bans on Tuna, Polar Bear Trading

Proposed bans of the exporting of a critically endangered species of tuna and the trade of polar bear skins, teeth and claws were defeated United Nations (UN) wildlife conference Thursday.

Legislation to protect the critically endangered Atlantic bluefin tuna, popular as an ingredient in sushi, was proposed on March 17 during the 175-nation Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in Doha, Qatar.

Representatives from that country argued that the species stocks had fallen by 75-percent, and that managing agencies have failed to properly rebuild them. Only three nations, the U.S., Kenya, and Norway, supported the proposal outright.

Likewise, an American-sponsored bill meant to protect polar bears was rejected by the CITES participants. Officials from the U.S. claimed that the sale of polar bear skins would lead to the species' population decline by two-thirds over the next 40 years. Opposition nations, including Canada, Norway, and Greenland, dismissed the threat caused by the trade and stressed that the hunting of polar bears was essential to Aboriginal communities.

"There is no doubt that action must continue to ensure the conservation of polar bears. Canada's goal is long term survival of polar bears," Canadian representative Basile Van Havre told the Associated Press (AP). "But Canada does not think the proposal is supported by facts."

Andrew Wetzer, the director of the National Resources Defense Council, called the result of the polar bear proposal "a setback," and Jeff Flocken of the International Fund for Animal Welfare added, "CITES parties have turned their backs on this iconic species"¦ [they] are using the fact that climate change poses to the greater long-term threat to the species as an excuse to do nothing about immediate threats hastening their decline."


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