New Procedure for CITES Non Detriment Assessments from the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources

31.08.16

The following is a translation of a press release from the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources on 26 August 2016:

New Procedure for CITES Non Detriment Assessments from the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources

Export of products from beluga whales and minke whales from West Greenland is deemed sustainable by CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) in 2016, while it cannot be documented that export of products from  walrus, polar bear, narwhal, and several other small whales would be sustainable. According to the agreement with CITES, which Greenland entered into in 1992, a positive ”Non Detriment Finding”, or NDF assessment must be prepared before any product made from species listed by CITES can be exported. The agreement implies pledges for the protection of nature, the preservation of biodiversity and the sustainable use according to the precautionary principle.

Naalakkersuisut, the Government of Greenland, takes the final decision over whether an export ban should be put into place or not.

Greenland in CITES

CITES categorizes animals and plants according to how endangered they are. According to the agreement, international trade for products from species listed under CITES List I is forbidden. Products from species listed under CITES List II can be traded internationally only if there is a positive NDF assessment. The Greenland Institute of Natural Resources is the CITES Scientific Authority in Greenland, responsible of delivering NDF assessments to Naalakkersuisut, the Government of Greenland.

New NDF Assessments

This year’s NDF assessment is the first comprehensive assessment  for all Greenlandic marine mammals on the CITES List II. Until now, all previous NDF assessments were for single species, according to individual requests from Naalakkersuisut, the Government of Greenland. The Greenland Institute of Natural Resources will from now on update annually the comprehensive NDF assessment of all the marine mammals in Greenland.

An NDF assessment can be either positive or negative. A positive assessment requires that exporting products made from an animal is not harmful to the population because it can be documented that the hunting is sustainable.

Narwhal and Walrus

In 2016, the Greenland Institute of Natural Resources has given both narwhal and walrus a negative NDF assessment, after several years of giving them positive ones. This is because the hunting in the period 2013-2015 for some populations has been larger than the scientific advice. It is highlighted in the assessment that walrus could have been given a positive assessment, if the quotas had taken into account the animals that are expected to be shot but lost during the hunt.

Polar bear and small whales

The assessment was negative for the polar bear because hunting takes place without scientific advice.  For the same reason, harbour porpoise, pilot whale, white-beaked dolphin, and killer whales have also received negative assessments. It is stressed in the NDF that scientific assessments of small whales are not typically made. Therefore, it is unknown whether hunting of these animals is sustainable or not.

Large whales and Seals

Animal products from large whales cannot be exported because large whales are under CITES List I. However, the minke whale in West Greenland is an exception because it is on CITES List II. Since the hunting of minke whales follows the scientific advice and is considered sustainable, the minke whale assessment was positive, just like the beluga whale.

Seals are not listed in CITES and therefore do not require a CITES NDF assessment for export.

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