This is the time of the year when I return to the subject of the legal fur trade in America. I have quoted the figure of 39,438 otters inhumanely killed for fur every year, and over the years I have been critisised for this figure – this figure was obtained directly from the websites of the official Departments of Fish and Wildlife for each individual state. In a recent 2016 Wildlife Crime report published by UNITED NATIONS OFFICE ON DRUGS AND CRIME (UNODC), they state and I quote:
“Demand appears to be growing in many key sectors. For example, according to COMTRADE data, global exports of raw fur skins topped US$7 billion in 2013 (Fig. 1). CITES continues to record large exports of wild-sourced skins of protected species. In 2013, the CITES Trade Database documented wild-sourced exports of close to 70,000 bobcat skins,2 50,000 river otter skins,3 32,000 brown fur seal skins,4 and almost 27,000 peccary skins,5 as well as many finished garments made of these.” Note 3 Lontra canadensis
So my figures appear to be an UNDERESTIMATE! However, even these newest figures will not take into account animals which have not been registered or those which are caught incidentally when trapping for beavers and not reported.
American and Canadian furs are traded at big auction houses in America and Canada and the strongest markets are in China and South Korea. Manufacturing centres exist in central and NE China and South Korea. Buyers come from Beijing, Hong Kong, Japan, Germany, Italy, Greece, New York, Turkey, Toronto and the UK
One argument given to support trapping is that it helps conservation. In the Arizona Hunting Regulations it says: “the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation is the world’s most successful … Hunting and angling are the cornerstones of the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation … ”
So is otter trapping sustainable? If we look at the figures, 10 states in USA and 2 states in Canada have no limit on the numbers trapped. In some of the states there simply is no up-to-date information on population status. If you look at Alaska the figures are from 1994 and we were told by Nevada that research is well past its due date. To argue for sustainable harvesting you need population data before and after harvesting. When I contacted the Fish and Wildlife Services for this data this is what they sent me.
This does not give population figures but just where the populations originated – and so it is totally irrelevant.
Clearly if we do not have reliable information on how many otters there are or how many are being killed then we cannot say it is sustainable.