Written by Sarah King
Two weeks ago, Greenpeace received a tip that a dozen containers of meat from endangered fin whales had arrived in Canada. After being rejected from German and Dutch ports last year, Iceland is now trying to get its controversial cargo to Japan via Canada, and it seems our government is happy to oblige.
A colleague at a friendly organization brought to our attention that these containers were arriving in the Port of Halifax to be shipped by rail across the country to Deltaport in B.C. and then off to Japan. While questions remain about whether all the containers have yet left Delta, other pieces of the puzzle have come together.
The shipping company that transported the containers to Canada is called Eimskip. It is an Icelandic company, the country’s oldest shipping company, with an office on the east coast in Newfoundland. Once they arrived in Halifax, they were inspected and transported by CN Rail to Delta port on the west coast. This is where things get fuzzy. But what we do know is that the Canadian government gave the shipment of endangered cargo the green light to reach its ultimate destination: Japan.
They didn’t have to do this. Apart from the obvious concerns that whales are still being commercially hunted and exported, the whales in question, fin whales, are listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and they have been listed under Appendix 1 of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) which prohibits signatory countries from trading products of this species. The hope with CITES is that if you cut off the trade in this species, you cut off the demand and reduce the incentive for commercial hunts. Japan, Norway and Iceland are the only countries of the 179 CITES members that undermine the treaty’s effectiveness, and Canada is their accessory.
But Environment Canada, the responsible author for all things CITES related, was wrong in saying that it must allow these types of shipments to transit through the country if they meet normal requirements. CITES certainly does not state that countries are guaranteed free trade in endangered species just because a country has not lodged an official reservation to the ban in question. Under CITES, a country can set stricter laws prohibiting these types of shipments, and the U.S. has done just that. The U.S. government bans transit of all species listed under the Species at Risk Act, such as the fin whale. In Canada, the Atlantic fin whale was afforded legal protection under the Species at Risk Act (SARA) in May 2005. How does it make any sense for our government to fail to oppose shipments from a commercial hunt?
A growing number of shipping companies, ports and other industries are taking a stand in support of the recovery of these endangered fin whales once and for all. With our Minister of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development’s new commitment to helping stop wildlife crime and the trade in endangered species, backed by a $2 million donation to stop the illegal trade in ivory, it would be advisable that he start here at home. Hundreds of Canadians “liked” (or rather not liked) The Sun article that broke the story within a day of it appearing. Whales need Canada’s help, just as elephants do.
Greenpeace is urging our federal ministers to stop the transit of endangered whale meat through Canada. Please sign and share the petition calling on the Canadian government to stop whale meat trade through Canadian ports.
This article is a guest post from Greenpeace Canada
Photo Credit: JoJan