California should permit nonendangered kangaroo product imports

Australia is one of the United States’ oldest allies. Two-way trade between California and Australia is worth $5.5 billion a year. We have collaborated on drought and wildfires with Australian firefighters battling blazes across the state.

During recent weeks, this positive relationship has been put to the test by misleading information about the Australian government and a trade issue we have been pursing openly and productively with the California Legislature since 2007. That is the export of nonendangered kangaroo products to California. (“Petting kangaroos and making shoes” Editorials, Sept. 1.)

In 2007, the Legislature and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger placed a moratorium on enforcement of California’s unique ban on the import of kangaroo products from nonendangered species. During the moratorium, Australia has delivered annual reports on our domestic kangaroo management programs to the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. To date, no California regulator, policymaker or any official of the United States government has voiced concerns regarding our compliance with California or U.S. wildlife protection and import-export laws.

A temporary solution has been in place for years; we need a permanent one. The moratorium will end Dec. 31, halting trade in nonendangered kangaroo products and impacting hundreds of Californian businesses. Assemblyman Mike Gipson’s Assembly Bill 1188 is designed to preserve that trade as successful bills did in 2007 and 2010.

The bill will not permit trade in endangered kangaroo products. Australia, like the United States, is a signatory to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. We do not trade in endangered species. The four species of nonendangered kangaroos that are harvested have a population numbering 49.3 million – twice the human population of Australia. Only 3.3 percent of that population was harvested in 2014.

Since the bans were lifted in 2007, more than 600 California businesses have flourished selling kangaroo products. Australia has fully complied with U.S. and California endangered species law, as well as the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, while enforcing our own tightly managed regulations for utilization of overabundant and nonendangered kangaroo species.

We recognize that animal protection and management is an important and often emotional issue. The decision on AB 1188 should be based on scientific evidence. The evidence is clear that Australia manages its nonendangered kangaroo population rigorously and humanely.

What must not happen is to allow emotion to create a distraction from the significant policy and economic issue before the Legislature. Gipson’s bill must be passed to avoid painful economic consequences in both Australia and California.

Kim Beazley is Australia’s ambassador to the United States.