Joe Hosmer has been working with Safari Club International and the Safari Club International Foundation for many years. His knowledge of conservation issues is exceptional and we jumped at the chance to interview him. He just got home from the CITES convention and we are honored to have him take time out of his day to share his insights with our readers.
|Left to Right: Johan Svalby, Yves LeCocq, Thomas Saldias, Matthew Eckert, Abigail Day, Rick Parsons, Al Maki, John Monson, Joseph Hosmer, George Pangeti.|
Q: Joe, Can you tell us your position in Safari Club International and how you came into the world of conservation?
Answer: I am currently a Vice-President of SCI and the SCI Foundation. For the past four years I have served as Chairman for the SCI Foundation Conservation Committee. As a life-long hunter, you could say that I’ve been involved with conservation since the first time I went afield. I joined SCI over 15 years ago and have been a member of the SCI Foundation Conservation committee for over 10 years..
Q: You recently traveled to Qatar to attend the CITES Convention, can you tell our readers a bit about what this kind of convention entails and what SCI was doing at the convention?
Answer: CITES stands for the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna. The CITES Treaty was negotiated and opened for signature in Washington, DC in March, 1973 and came into effect in 1975 after 10 countries, or “Parties,” ratified the treaty. As of March, 2010, CITES has 175 Parties, making it one of the largest treaties in the world.. The main goal of CITES is to ensure that trade in wildlife is non-detrimental to their survival. In other words, CITES prevents or regulates trade to ensure it is not a factor leading to the extinction of a species.
Every two to three years, the Parties are required to meet at the CITES Conference of the Parties (CoP) where they debate wildlife trade policies and proposals to increase or decrease trade regulations. A myriad of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) also participate in these meetings, but they are observers and do not have a vote on decisions. Some NGOs, such as SCI and SCI Foundation are dedicated to sustainable use conservation, while other NGOs are dedicated to banning all trade and consumptive use of wildlife.
SCI and SCI Foundation participate in the meetings of the CITES CoP to contribute factual and science-based information to the debates in support of sustainable use. We highlight the importance of sport hunting as a conservation tool and when appropriate, offer research findings from projects that have been sponsored by the organizations. All Parties recognize that SCI is an authority on hunting, and they listen to the institutional knowledge we have on how CITES decisions may affect hunters worldwide. It is absolutely imperative that SCI and SCI Foundation contribute to the debates, as we are one of very few hunting organizations that are technically capable of defending hunting and sustainable use at a CITES CoP.
Q: What were your goals at the convention?
Answer: My personal goal was to help the SCI and SCI Foundation delegations reach our objectives and contribute to the debates on issues that were important to hunters. Many Parties and NGOs can inadvertently lose sight of how hunters and hunting contributes to international wildlife conservation. It is important to remind people of this connection, as sustainable use hunting gives a unique value to wildlife at a local level and provides various conservation benefits to wildlife. To give you an idea, the legal international trade in wildlife and plants has a current estimated value of $300 billion annually, and is understood to contribute to the well-being of people, particularly poor rural people. And it’s not just about the revenue – hunting assists problem animal control programs, human-wildlife conflict programs, and wildlife population management generally.
One of the best examples of how we worked to reach sustainable use goal was raising awareness of sustainable use in the discussion on Polar Bears. The U.S. had proposed to increase the trade regulations on polar bears. In CITES terms, they tried to uplist the polar bear from Appendix II to Appendix I. This increase in regulation would have made it extremely difficult to trade any polar bear products, even when the item is for personal use such as a hunting trophy. This is damaging to the livelihoods of the Inuit people in Canada who subsist on polar bear hunting and apply the revenue generated from the bears to their community’s economy and conservation. We supported the polar bear range states on their factual positions and recognized that an increase of CITES regulation was not warranted. The proposal was politically driven rather than biologically driven, as the current trade in polar bears is not detrimental to the survival of the polar bear and the species does not meet the CITES criteria for an Appendix I uplisting. In the end, the right decision was made and the U.S’s proposal was rejected. It is hard to measure our influence on such a decision, especially when there were so many Parties against the uplisting, but we know that our contribution was part of the larger effort to defeat the U.S. proposal.
Our greatest achievement, though not as illustrious as the polar bear issue, was having a key role in creating a CITES definition for “hunting trophy.” For the past 35 years, CITES has not defined the term “hunting trophy” because regionally, there are various interpretations of what a trophy actually is. If a country in Asia considers the bones of a hunted animal to be part of the trophy and country in Latin America does not, trade between the two countries may be problematic. This is how seizures of imports happen – confusion, differences in opinions and miscommunication. We thought that instead of fighting the creation of a CITES definition, we should work with several Parties and NGOs to draft a definition that would be suitable for all countries. After long sessions of debates in a drafting group, defending our arguments for a less restrictive definition, the Parties adopted a definition we are pleased with. I am certain that if our organizations were not part of the drafting group, the definition would be more restrictive and problematic for trade in hunting trophies.
Q: What were some of the successful meetings that your group was able to facilitate?
Answer: This is a hard one to answer because we were constantly having meetings with countries and organizations from around the world. Actually, we generally meet with most of the participants over the course of two weeks. For the first time, SCI facilitated meetings between different regions and attempted to bridge some of the gaps created by oceans. Representatives from North America, Africa, and Latin America were invited to meet and share information about why certain CITES issues were important to their country. Discussing the importance of specific issues to their cultures and livelihoods was expected and having different regions realize they all share similar values was essential for success. There are great similarities between polar bears, elephants, beetles and mahogany when we are regulating trade to ensure sustainable use.
Q. You stated that the Polar Bear Situation was created out of Political reasons versus scientific reasons, can you expound on this situation to give our readers a clear view of the current situation in regards to the Polar bear listing in the United States?
Answer· The U.S. proposal to uplist the polar bear from Appendix II to I appeared to be more politically motivated than scientifically based for a number of reasons. First, the polar bear in no way satisfies the scientific criteria for Appendix I, which requires a more imminent threat to the species’ population or habitat. Overall, polar bears remain near historic high numbers and occupy their entire historic range. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service premised the ESA listing on threats going out 40-50 years. Second, several organizations that track international trade, the focus of CITES, concluded that limited trade in polar bear parts is not having an adverse impact on polar bear conservation and management. In fact, the increased value of the bear due to limited trade (in turn based on sustainable hunting) actually creates funding and support for well-run management programs. Third, a restriction on trade does not reduce polar bear mortality due to hunting. The quotas are set for subsistence purposes and the native communities will take the same number of bears whether or not international trade is allowed. In proposing the uplisting without a scientific or policy basis, the U.S. appeared to be catering to those who wish to end all polar bear hunting, whether sustainable or not.
Q. How will the new definition for Hunting Trophies help travelling hunters internationally?
Answer:The victory was really about preventing a more restrictive definition that would change the status quo. We haven’t really helped hunters all that much unless the US adopts the CITES definition of hunting trophy. We averted disaster by including worked items into the definition and avoiding the US proposed definition.
Only one permit will be needed to ship any part or derivative of a hunted CITES Appendix II animal as a hunting trophy. This includes worked and manufactured items made from the hunted animal. The hunter will need fewer CITES permits to ship his Appendix II trophy items, except for when these items are being imported into the US, who have adopted a more restrictive definition of hunting trophy that excludes worked items and require additional permits for these items.
We have eliminated confusion on what items qualify as a hunting trophy. It now includes any part or derivative of a hunted animal. (This is an improvement on status quo)
The definition has reduced the confusion regarding the permits and codes that are required to ship a trophy, and which parts are and are not allowed in trade. This will result in fewer seizures. (This may be an improvement on status quo, and if the United States changes their definition, it will more clearly have a positive outcome).
Fewer seizures and penalties to hunters will encourage hunting internationally and the economies tied to the hunting industry – such as taxidermy.
Q. Why should hunters become members of SCI?
Answer· SCI members ensure hunting and hunters are protected both here in the U.S. and also internationally. SCI’s office in Washington, D.C. keeps a pulse on federal and state legislation that diminishes the hunting opportunities or limits scientific and sustainable wildlife management. Most importantly, our staff watches members of congress who are outspoken opponents of hunting and who align their legislative agenda with anti-hunting organizations such as the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW). SCI members are also vital in their support for the SCI Foundation which funds all our wildlife conservation programs, from caribou studies in Newfoundland, to a white-tail disease study in Georgia, to symposiums on managing the African lion. The Foundation also operates the many Humanitarian programs that hunters have developed over the years such as Sportsmen Against Hunger and the Blue Bag program where hunters take education and medical supplies to rural communities around the globe. You can see all the good work of the HS program by going to http://bit.ly/9diEkC.
Q. Can you tell us about your most memorable hunt?
Answer· One of my more memorable hunts was for ibex in the mountains of southern Turkey. We hunted very hard, by foot, and in outrageously hot weather. We slept in mountain caves and ate boiled rice for a week. In the end, I never saw a suitable ibex. While scouting, I watched young ibex climbing recklessly to the tops of huge pine trees for the most tender buds, with the climax of the trip being witness to an eagle killing a female ibex. The eagles aerobatics and stealth in accomplishing this feat remains totally unforgettable!
Q.What hunt are you most excited about for 2010?
Answer:· This year is my 12th Annual Father and Daughter Hunting Trip which will take us to British Columbia for Moose and Mountain Goats. It will be my daughter Brittany’s first trip into these mountains. As a family, we are also traveling to Sweden for a traditional moose hunt with dogs this fall. I also plan to hunt capercaillie while in Sweden as well. I have hunted capercaillie in Russia before and will now try my luck in Sweden.