Thank you, Madam Chair and good morning. We are delighted to be in Switzerland and thank our gracious hosts and the secretariat for making this meeting possible.
I make this intervention on behalf of the following 17 NGOs: Animal Welfare Institute, Born Free Foundation, Born Free USA, CATCA Environmental and Wildlife Society, Center for Biological Diversity, Defenders of Wildlife, Environmental Investigation Agency, IFAW, Humane Society International, Japan Wildlife Conservation Society, Natural Resource Defense Council, ProWildlife, Robin des Bois, Shark Research Institute, Special Survival Network, Whale and Dolphin Conservation and World Animal Protection.
At our last meeting, ten months ago, this Committee unequivocally found Japan to be in non-compliance with the Convention for its introduction from the sea since 2002 of 1,584 sei whales—recorded by IUCN as an endangered species— for commercial purposes, including more than 1,500 metric tons of meat from 131 sei whales caught in 2018. At SC70 the Standing Committee requested that Japan report on its implementation of remedial actions so that SC71 can decide if the provisions of Article III, paragraph 5(c), have been met or if compliance measures are necessary.
As we have heard from many previous speakers, Japan has an important issue to resolve before it is in full compliance with the Convention. Article VIII clearly requires parties to confiscate specimens that have been traded in violation of the treaty. In this case, Japan must confiscate all the sei whale meat and blubber that remains in commercial circulation, as well as unsold stock held in freezer warehouses. It must then dispose of it consistent with the provisions of Resolution Conf. 17.8 on disposal of illegally traded and confiscated specimens of CITES-listed species.
In fact, Japan is currently doing the opposite; the government assures whale meat vendors that sei meat is legal to sell and, according to a survey conducted by NGOs in June 2019, sei whale meat is widely available. Seventy four percent of whale meat vendors could supply sei products, including canned and frozen items. Sei whale meat is especially widely available online: Yahoo! Shopping Japan offered 118 different sei whale products for sale on a randomly selected day in April 2019 while a new online whale meat seller, Kujiraniku, held stocks of at least 78 tons of sei whale products in June.
CITES Parties have agreed that the commercial use of illegally traded Appendix I specimens is unacceptable; it stimulates demand and undermines the very purpose of an Appendix I listing. We urge this Committee to decide, consistent with the recommendation made by Niger and supported by many other parties, that Japan must now confiscate and dispose of all remaining sei whale products introduced from the sea since 2002.
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For 37 years, the staff of The Humane Society of Canada have actively participated in the administration and enforcement of CITES, an United Nations treaty to which 188 nations, including Canada (which was a founding member) are signatories. CITES stands for the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species and is the most important wildlife treaty in the world.