At the CITES Conference of the Parties, which is being held in South Africa, Johannesburg October 2, 2016 (local time), a resolution calling to close the domestic markets for ivory was adopted unanimously. It is likely to adopted at plenary, which will take place on October 4.
Although it is not legally binding, countries would be required to report on status of implementation, and there is a possibility that criticism against Japan will become stronger. And as some research indicates that 80% of the ivory processed in Japan is name seals, there is also a finding that’s seal, what kind of influence might this have?
Even though imports are prohibited, “registration” of ivory continues to increase
The import and export of African elephant ivory has been banned in principle since 1990. After that, just the one-off imports of 1997 and 2007 of ivory obtained from elephants who had died of natural causes were allowed as exceptions. For this reason, if new ivory products hit the market, it is thought that there is a high possibility that the ivory from which these were made was imported before the prohibition came into effect. According to a report and other materials released this summer by the Ministry of the Environment, of about 2,006 tons of “whole ivory tusks” were imported between 1981 and 1989. After that, the registration system was put in place to register whole ivory tusks, and between 1995 and 2015, a cumulative weight of about 305 tons of ivory have been registered. Registration is said to have been increasing recently, and it is speculated that “registration of ivory that was obtained legally in the past has increased”.
80% of the ivory seal owners: “if ivory is unavailable, would consider a replacement material”
According to the spring 2016 report by wildlife trade monitoring NGO TRAFFIC, the scale of the domestic ivory market was about 200 billion yen in 1989, and in 2014 was reduced to about 20 billion yen. The import ban on ivory went into effect, and in addition to the discontinuation of use of ivory for piano keys, it seems the widespread use of ivory seals by even companies and public institutions has plummeted. The ivory industry is about 10% of the scale it was in the 1980s, of which estimated an 80% is comprised of name seals. In the report, it pointed out that “there is no material that has been adopted as the replacement for ivory” but, “the market for titanium is growing as a luxury seal material of the next generation.”
In the consumer research that the organization conducted in 2014, “More than 80% of ivory seal owners would consider a replacement material for ivory if it becomes unavailable.” According to the BBC report, subject of regulation in the draft resolution are “markets that are not regulated,” and the Japanese government at the meeting stated that Japan’s domestic ivory market is “outside the scope of the domestic market closures”. On the other hand, environmental groups stated: “We are disappointed in the Japanese government’s failure to acknowledge that Japan’s ivory market contributes to the illegal ivory trade.”
The Ministry of the Environment, Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, Yahoo, and others in the “Japan Federation of Ivory Arts and Crafts Associations” made a declaration in their September, 2016 report from the ” Public-private Council on the Promotion of Appropriate Ivory Trade” in which they expressed a negative viewpoint on domestic ivory market closures: “Even in the ivory trade, international benefits of ivory trade under a strict management regime can co-exist with elephant conservation so that it does not affect the survival of elephants, and financial resources from this trade can go towards development of the local communities and of the region.”