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The Environment Ministry will tighten controls on the domestic elephant ivory market, including making ivory traders register with the government and introducing harsher punishments for violators.
The move is aimed at excluding malicious businesses from the market, following global moves toward stricter market management.
The ministry expects to submit a bill to revise the species conservation law to the current ordinary session of the Diet, the nation’s parliament, aiming to put it into force in summer next year, informed sources said.
All exports and imports of elephant tusks were banned under the Washington Convention in 1990 to preserve African elephants, or Loxodonta africana, at risk of extinction. In 1981-1990, before the trade ban, Japan imported more than 2,000 tons of ivory.
Currently, transactions involving legally imported tusks are not prohibited in Japan. Businesses that handle ivory products, such as personal seals and accessories, are able to buy and sell such items if they notify the government in advance.
Ivory traders can continue in business even if they fail to file notifications, after paying fines.
Under the planned registration system, the ministry is considering shutting out merchants that have carried out illegal deals and assessing the qualification of each trader every five years.
The current law imposes fines of up to ¥500,000 for ivory transactions without notifications, on both individuals and companies. The ministry plans to raise the punishment ceilings to ¥5 million or five years’ imprisonment for individuals, and ¥100 million for incorporated businesses.
In October last year, signatory countries of 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 the domestic ivory markets suspected of trading tusks of illegally hunted African elephants.
The position of the 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.Speech