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Whaling Commission could be “dead as a dodo”

Whaling Commission could be “dead as a dodo” - Palmer

The International Whaling Commission may be “dead as a dodo” without an agreed commercial whaling quota, says one of New Zealand’s top diplomats.

Whaling Commissioner Sir Geoffrey Palmer appeared with Foreign Affairs Minister Murray at the Beehive today to discuss the group’s latest round of negotiations, which seek to control and reduce the total number of whales killed each year.

Sir Geoffrey said it was a fraught subject but New Zealanders had an emotional attachment to a moratorium that he believed was not working.

A quota could ensure international control over the numbers killed, he said.

“We have a treaty – it’s defective. Over time we think it could be fixed, but you can’t fix it immediately.

“You can spin these things any way you like, but the raw facts are what matters – and the raw facts are how many whales are being killed and by whom, and how many whales will be killed in the future and by whom.”

The current convention allows harvesting of 1600 whales for research which can then be sold commercially; plus 400 for aboriginal subsistence.

Japan, Norway and Iceland all whale at present; Japan under the research clause while Norway and Iceland formally object to the moratorium.

Under the new proposal countries who took whales commercially would not take them any other way and would be monitored as with other fisheries.

Sir Geoffrey said he wanted to see the quotas halved from 3000 at present - “and even that may not be enough at some times, in some places, in some stocks”.

But the Commission needed to agree on starting figures before they could discuss the proposal in Morocco in June.

The effective deadline would be 22 April.

Sir Geoffrey said he was not confident of getting the right numbers – and without those, he said, the agreement was “as dead as a dodo”.

If the agreement failed he believed there would be a big risk of the Commission disintegrating.

“If it comes to an end there will be no international instrument for protecting the whales.

McCully said he could understand the symbolism of opposing all commercial whaling and would share any proposals with the public as soon as possible.

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