Japan is set to strengthen its control over the domestic ivory trade after the Cabinet approved Tuesday a bill requiring dealers to register with the government.
The measure would require a screening of ivory dealers during registration and follow-up inspections every five years. Registrations could be rescinded if dealers are found to have engaged in illegal activity.
Those who run unregistered ivory businesses would face harsh penalties, with the maximum fine for individuals raised to ¥5 million ($44,400) from the current ¥500,000. Corporations would be fined up to ¥100 million.
The bill was drafted following a resolution adopted last year by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, or CITES, calling for the end of the international ivory trade and the closing of the domestic ivory markets in each of the signatory states.
Although Japan is a party to CITES, it does not plan on closing its domestic market because it does not believe the ivory traded in the country is supplied through poaching or illegal deals. The United States and China, among other signatories, have already banned domestic ivory trading.
The CITES bans international trade in ivory in principle to protect endangered African elephants. A 2015 survey by an international conservation group found the animal’s population had decreased more than 110,000 from its 2006 level of about 550,000 due to an escalation in poaching.