Progress in the battle against illegal logging

Illegal logging is a scourge for many developing nations, imperiling forests and biodiversity and robbing the government of direly needed revenues.  So it's heartening to hear that the battle against illegal logging is gaining some traction.

Ill-gotten timber?  (photo by William Laurance)

Ill-gotten timber? (photo by William Laurance)

A key development has been the growing impact of laws or regulations designed to reduce illegal trade in timber-consuming nations.  These include the European Union's FLEGT (Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade) measures, the Lacey Act in the U.S., and Australia's Illegal-Logging Prohibition Act.

All of these measures put teeth into rules that regulate timber imports.  In essence, they require companies importing timber to use 'due diligence' to ensure that the wood or paper products they import are legal. 

Heavy penalties can apply for those who knowingly or negligently flaunt the law.

According to recent reports by Chatham House, a leading U.K. think tank, high-risk timber imports are falling for most timber-importing nations, including the U.S., Japan, Britain, France, and the Netherlands.  Australia's legislation is only beginning to be enforced now.

The Chatham House reports suggest that Japan is lagging somewhat, because it imports lots of wood and paper products from China, Russia, and Malaysia, all of which are thought to deal frequently in illegal timber.

This progress is definitely good news, and it illustrates the importance and impact of legislation that tightens the rules for timber importers. 

Notably, opponents of such laws -- including the notorious timber lobbyist Alan Oxley -- have long argued that these measures were unnecessary and would be ineffective.  The Chatham House reports clearly show such arguments are wrong.


Eco-pariah? Why Japan refuses to stop whaling

ALERT member Craig Morley is dismayed by Japan's recent decision to continue it's banned whaling campaign in the southern oceans, and suggests why the country is pushing the issue so hard:

Another dead whale for 'science'...

Another dead whale for 'science'...

On March 31, I posted an ALERT blog describing how the U.N. International Court of Justice had ordered Japan to halt its Jarpa II whaling 'research program'. 

I questioned then whether this would actually stop Japan whaling in the southern oceans, and also whether Japanese whalers might simply hunt elsewhere.

However, the Court ruling left the door open for Japan to advance a new proposal for whaling in the southern oceans, if it met the Court's strict terms. 

Unfortunately, the ruling also sparked a spike in whale-meat consumption in Japan, as people there feared they might not taste it again.  As a result, it now seems Japan is on the hunt again for another 51 minke whales.

In reality, few Japanese eat whale meat, and there are warehouses full of it in Japan. 

In a survey conducted by the Asahi Shimbun newspaper (with 1,756 respondents), only 4% of Japanese said they eat whale “sometimes,” whereas 10% consume it “fairly infrequently.” 

Moreover, nearly half (48%) of the respondents answered they have not eaten whale meat in “a long time,” and 37% said they have never eaten it at all.

Whale-meat consumption continues to fall in Japan.  Rakuten Inc., Japan’s largest online retailer, and Lawson’s, a major convenience-store chain, say they no longer stock whale meat products.

This begs the question as to why Japan is fighting so hard to continue its whaling program, given that whale meat is no longer an important part of the Japanese diet.

In simple truth, much of what the country has been doing is motivated by Japanese prideEven with slackening demand and with growing international condemnation, the country believes it has an inalienable right to continue whaling.

But both the world's whales and Japan's international reputation are paying a heavy price for such dogged intransigence.


Will Japan stop killing whales?

Will the whales be safe now?  ALERT member Craig Morley gives his perspective:

Sacrificed for science?  Dying Minke Whale in Antarctic waters (photo by Greenpeace)

Sacrificed for science?  Dying Minke Whale in Antarctic waters (photo by Greenpeace)

Australia had urged the U.N. International Court of Justice to order Japan to stop its Jarpa II research program and "revoke any authorisations, permits or licences" to hunt whales in the Southern Ocean.

The court action was decided this morning in Australia's favor.  The court voted 12 to 4 that Japan has violated several clauses of the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling.  It must now cease all special whaling permits and refrain from issuing any more.

The court found the use of lethal samples per se was not unreasonable in achieving the objectives of Jarpa II, but there were no grounds for targeting such a large number of whales.

Judge Peter Tomk said Japan has not acted in conformity with the existing whaling convention in each of the seasons that it has issued permits for whaling.

However, is this the end of the story?  Will Japan cease its so-called "cultural cull" of whales?

Fisheries Minister Yoshimasa Hayashi vowed last year that Japan would never stop its "long tradition and culture" of whaling.

While the court decision affects Japanese whale hunting in the Southern Ocean, it does not stop the Japanese from hunting more whales in the Northern Pacific--which should send out alarm bells for these populations.

So, although we may have achieved one victory, our focus now must go on the even smaller and fractured whale populations in the north.