a consultant who recommended a moratorium on the live capture and trade in whales and dolphins says the Department of External Affairs and Trade is putting pressure on the Fisheries ministry not to move forward with the recommendations.
Jon Lien, a biologist at Memorial University in St. John's, Newfoundland, says that's the word he's getting from his contacts in the Ministry of Fisheries and Oceans in Ottawa.
He says the government's reluctance to move on his recommendations is leaving open huge loopholes in the lucrative and often brutal capture and trade in whales and other cetaceans that end up in privately owned aquariums here in Canada.
Lien says there's currently nothing stopping anyone from going out and capturing whales and dolphins not on the CITES prohibited list and bringing them into Canada. There's also no humane treatment legislation, except for animals being used in research.
The trade in cetaceans has increased so much -- they're even for sale on the Internet -- that the animals are no longer considered an integral part of nature, Lien says, but a commodity like lumber to be bought and traded for profit. "It's gotten to be a horrible mess," Lien says.
NDP MP Libby Davies has recently tabled a motion calling for a moratorium on the trade. It was debated this week, but under parliamentary rules that give the governing Grits power over what's on the agenda, the motion is unlikely to be voted on.
Max Stanfield, a director for the Fisheries department, says, "Admittedly, it's a thorny issue," but he claims there's no pressure, at least that he's aware of, coming from External Affairs and Trade to keep current loopholes open. So why has the department been sitting on Lien's recommendations for two years? Stanfield says it's simply a matter of shifting departmental priorities. "Things go from one burner to the other," he says.