The world’s largest conservation body has adopted a pro-hunting policy of sustainable use that urges the implementation of sound science and says use of wild living resources can be an important conservation tool.
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) last week voted to accept the motion introduced by Canada's fur industry and supported by a variety of groups including Namibia’s environment and tourism ministry, an Inuit council and the Swedish Hunters Federation.
The motion effectively calls on all nations to permit the sustainable use of wild animals, particularly by local and indigenous populations, and would counter efforts by animal activists to shut down industries and ruin communities that rely on wildlife resources.
It will not only protect industries such as the fur trade if they are well managed, it could solidify hunting as a legitimate activity and would confirm that it has a place in modern international conservation.
“Sustainable utilisation is a primary principle of conservation,” Shooters and Fishers Party MLC Robert Brown said when briefing NSW parliament on the ICUN's adoption of the motion.
“The sooner we in Australia adopt the concept, the better will be our overall success with conservation outcomes.
“Once we have similar motions adopted here, there should never again be any ‘conservation’ argument or threat against our kangaroo industry, for example.”
The motion was passed with 98% support by the IUCN at its World Conservation Congress in South Korea, where 10,000 delegates represented government and non-government organisations from 153 countries, and it was one of 180 motions debated.
“The Congress, which has become known in Korea as Nature’s Olympics, has brought home gold for conservation,” IUCN director general Julia Marton-Lefèvre said. “It has demonstrated how nature-based solutions, as expressed in the congress slogan Nature+, help us address many of our most pressing challenges.”
The congress approved resolutions on a wide range of conservation issues, such as the ongoing poaching of Africa’s iconic animals, fish stocks, oil drilling, mercury contamination and ecosystem funding in poor countries.
"While radically new text, we believe [Motion 151] sends clear adoption that all wild species used, should be done so sustainably, and that their use is important economically and also plays an important role ecologically," Rob Cahill, executive director of the Fur Institute of Canada, said.
The motion is significant for its backing of sustainable use and implied support for hunting, but much of its content was an effort to remind IUCN members – including Australia – of previous resolutions that are often ignored when environmental policies are implemented.
The sponsors of the motion included a reminder about a recommendation passed in 1990 during an IUCN general assembly held in Perth. The recommendation, entitled Conservation of Wildlife Through Wise Use as a Renewable Natural Resource, said, “ethical, wise and sustainable use of wildlife can provide an alternative or supplementary means of productive land-use and can be consistent with and encourage conservation, where such use is in accordance with appropriate safeguards”.
In 2004, the IUCN developed a framework for advising governments, resource managers and other stakeholders that “allows sustainable use of a resource to proceed from collection or harvest through to final use without unnecessary impediment”.
And in 2000, the IUCN recommended “all national governments … put their sustainable use principles into action in order to improve the viability of indigenous and local communities, which depend on the harvesting of renewable resources, by eliminating tariff, and nontariff barriers, which discourage the sustainable use of natural products derived from non-endangered species”.
Motion 151 states that “where use of wild species occurs, whether consumptive or non-consumptive, ecological sustainability and an ecosystem-based approach are essential to sound resource management,” a comment that underlines principals of the new Ecological Deer Management system developed by the NSW Game Council.
“For years now, but only when it suited their own selfish purposes, Green groups, who oppose almost everything, have used the IUCN standards and principles to block, delay or defer any number of initiatives,” Mr Brown said. “So I hope they will have the good grace to concede that sustainable use and conservation can and do go hand in hand.”
Read the full text of the motion on the IUCN congress website.