September 17, 2007

CEC rejects seal hunt submission from Mexican environmental groups

The Commission for Environmental Co-operation (CEC) has rejected a submission from three Mexican environmental groups claiming that the Canadian government is failing to effectively enforce its law with respect to the annual harp seal hunt, and has terminated the submission process.

The Centro Mexicano de Derecho Ambiental AC (CEMDA) and Conservación de Mamíferos Marinos de México (COMARINO) first filed their submission with the CEC secretariat in June. After reviewing the submission, the secretariat issued a decision in July concluding that the submission did not meet all the admissibility criteria under Article 14(1) of the North American Agreement on Environmental Cooperation (NAAEC) and gave the two groups 30 days to file a revised submission.

The revised submission, filed in August by CEMDA and COMARINO, along with Humane Society International, alleged that Canada is failing to effectively enforce sections 8, 28 and 29 of the marine mammal regulations under the federal Fisheries Act, which prescribe methods and instruments for killing seals. The groups claimed that these provisions meet the definition of environmental law under the NAAEC and argues that regardless of the killing implement used, the commercial seal hunt is inherently cruel because of the environment in which it operates.

The submission reinforced the group's position that the Canadian commercial seal hunt should be permanently stopped, based on their belief that the hunt cannot be carried out in an acceptably humane manner regardless of the level of enforcement.

The secretariat, however, decided that it cannot examine the revised submission pursuant to NAAEC Article 14(1) because it does not assert a failure to effectively enforce environmental law and notified the groups that the submissions process is terminated.

The CEC's citizen submissions process provides the public a whistle-blower tool on matters of environmental law enforcement. Article 14 of the NAAEC allows any person or nongovernmental organization to submit a claim alleging that a NAFTA partner has failed to effectively enforce its environmental law. Following a review of the submission, the CEC Secretariat may investigate the matter and prepare a factual record of its findings.

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