Domestic ivory market faces tighter curbs, fines as global scrutiny rises (Japan)


The Japan Times

Date Published

The Environment Ministry will tighten controls on Japan’s elephant ivory market, including by making traders register with the government and adding stiffer penalties. The ministry expects to submit a bill to revise the species conservation law to the Diet, with an eye to having it take force in summer 2018, informed sources said.

All exports and imports of tusks were banned under the Washington Convention in 1990 to preserve African elephants, which are at risk of extinction. From 1981 to 1990, before the trade ban, Japan imported more than 2,000 tons of ivory.

Transactions involving legally imported tusks are not prohibited by Japan. Businesses that handle ivory products, such as personal seals and accessories, can buy and sell them if they notify the government in advance.

But traders can continue operating even if they fail to file notifications, if they pay the fines.

Under the registration plan, the ministry might shut out merchants who have carried out illegal deals and assess the qualifications of each trader every five years.

Current law imposes fines of up to ¥500,000 for ivory transactions lacking notification on both individuals and companies. The ministry plans to raise the ceiling to ¥5 million or five years in prison for individuals, and ¥100 million for incorporated businesses.

In October, signatories to the Washington Convention, formally known as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, adopted a recommendation that requests the closure of domestic ivory markets suspected of trading tusks of illegally hunted African elephants.

The position of the Japanese government is that its domestic market does not fall under the recommendation, citing its legal controls. But it has also been considering stricter measures, in view of the increasing global scrutiny.