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The Legally Structured Role of Hunting and Fishing in the United States and Abroad
A Speech by John J. Jackson, III at the Fifth Annual Animal Law Institute, Texas Law Center, Austin, Texas, April 8, 2005
The Convention in
Trade of Endangered Species, CITES, recognizes the special
role that recreational hunting and fishing can play by
giving such trade in wildlife favored treatment. CITES
prohibits all commercial trade of species listed on Appendix
I, but not hunting and fishing trophies. Those trophies are
taken for personal use, not commercial trade. The underlying
activity is licensed, regulated hunting, not poaching. As
early as the Second Conference of the Parties, COP 2, a
resolution was adopted by the Parties, Resolution 2.11, that
expressly favors trade in personal tourist hunting trophies.
It was revised as recently as the 9th Conference, COP 9,
Resolution 2.11 (rev.), to further facilitate and remove
unnecessary impediments to the export and import of hunting
trophies of Appendix "I" listed species. Importing countries
are requested by CITES to accept the export countries’
hunting trophies and related biological and
The required "non-detriment" determinations for trade in hunting trophies of Appendix "I" species still have to be made by exporting and importing countries, but that too has been facilitated by the development of quotas set by the Parties at the conferences. Quotas dispense with the need to make non-detriment findings on a case-by-case basis. The first such quota was for leopard, reflected in the current Resolution 10.14. The leopard quota permitted tourist hunters to bring their trophies home. It converted what was perceived to be a vermin to a game animal. Leopard that would inevitably have been shot, poisoned or snared became trophies and hence one of the building blocks of the conservation infrastructure of those developing nations. The quota favored the limited, licensed regulated tourist hunting of leopards and turned that species from a liability into an asset that paid for its conservation and the conservation of other species as well. Normally, the hunting includes not just the leopard (a spotted cat that can reproduce like a rabbit) but also license fees for the many animals taken for bait that are very plentiful, minimum number of hunting days and other legal requirements that support the conservation infrastructure.
Similar quotas have been established by the Parties with the underlying recognition of the benefits that can arise from the sustainable use of species, particularly game species. Other quotas, decisions, annotations and provisions have been established for Nile Crocodile, Cheetah (COP 8), Markhor (Res. 10.15), White Rhino and Elephant (Res. 10.10). Hunting trophy quotas have been accepted and set when the population of the affected species have been less than 2,000, as in the case of the Markhor in Pakistan’s Targhor region. Such quotas have had remarkably positive conservation consequences. As Aldo Leopold said, "We have learned that it is necessary to positively produce as well as negatively protect if we are to successfully conserve wildlife".
The licensed, regulated trophy hunting of white rhino listed on Appendix I has generated tens of millions of dollars. When the hunting began, there were fewer than 2,000 white rhino in existence. The white rhino population has grown more than seven-fold since that time. The revenue from the tourist hunting has provided the means to save the rhino and the motive as well. White Rhino have been hunted to conserve them. The management regime has been strategically designed to conserve wildlife through its use.
Now, the critically
endangered black rhino has reached the population level of a
few thousand, just as the white rhino had decades ago. At
the last CITES Conference in Bangkok, COP 13, the 167
Parties to CITES adopted a trophy hunting quota for black
rhino (Resolution 13.5). Quotas of five for Namibia and five
for the Republic of South Africa were established. As a game
animal, that rhino species has an edge on its own survival -
i.e., a highly regulated second chance. The quota is
intended to capitalize on that contemporary conservation
strategy. As one African official recently told me: "I am
not a hunter myself. We do this to save our wildlife and
biodiversity." They hunt them to save them.
It remains to be seen if the black rhino can benefit from tourist hunting as the White Rhino and other species have. Why? Unlike the white rhino, the black rhino is listed on the US Endangered Species list as "endangered," not just CITES Appendix I. This poses an additional regulatory impasse to their conservation use.
The USF&WS has had regulatory authority to permit importation of species listed as "endangered" under the Endangered Species Act from the inception of the Act, but has had a practice not to grant such permit applications. The Service’s practice has been contrary to the American conservation experience and directly conflicts with modern sustainable-use principles. It’s been a diplomatic insult to developing nations and has obstructed those countries’ most earnest efforts to use licensed, regulated, limited hunting where it can do the greatest good. In the past, the Service has permitted the import of trophies of "endangered" bontebok taken in South Africa’s programs on the basis they were captive-bred and the hunting activity "enhanced" the survival of the population in the wild. That, in fact, has provided the necessary revenue for game farmers to maintain their bontebok populations, the incentive to positively produce them and a constructive means of husbandry and control.
The US Fish & Wildlife Service (USF&WS) has also permitted the taking of ESA-listed "endangered" exotic species in Texas when a share of the revenue has been directed back to the species’ country of origin to enhance the species recovery or restoration in the wild. As a practical husbandry and management necessity, surplus animals have to be controlled. Those permitted hunters from the US do indeed provide the primary conservation revenue in India, Laos, Cambodia and other distant countries for endangered species such as barasingha, Eld’s Deer and Arabian oryx. Hunting those listed species right here in Texas is funding most of the conservation effort directed toward them. That is another statutory and regulatory success arising from wise use.
At last, the USF&WS has noticed in the Federal Register a proposed change in practice to permit importation of trophies of game species listed as "endangered" (Draft Policy for Enhancement of Survival Permits for Foreign Species Listed under the Endangered Species Act, 68 FR 49512, August 18, 2003). The purpose is to give those game species the advantage they should enjoy as game species but only in very select cases where the range nation has a comprehensive program that is dependent upon trophy hunting and the hunting is a net benefit to the species’ survival or restoration. If fully put into practice, this will allow the American hunting community (both hunters and their conservation organizations) to show once again what sustainable use can do. The very possibility has already been the driving force underlying the conservation advances of species such as the black rhino. Unfortunately, to this date, the Service’s permitting practices have denied foreign game species listed as "endangered" their greatest means and hope of survival.
In summary, hunting and fishing are more than important recreational activities. Hunting and fishing programs have been crafted and designed to propagate game and non-game species. Whether abundant or endangered, smartly crafted programs can serve and save our wildlife around the world.