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Japanese Vote Buying Sinks Sanctuary

Japanese Vote Buying Sinks South Pacific Whale Sanctuary

Auckland, London 24th July 2001: Measures to further protect the world’s whales were today undermined when South Pacific nations were denied their right to a South Pacific Whale Sanctuary (SPWS). Opposition from Japan, Norway and the block of countries that vote with Japan in return for Overseas Development Aid (1), prevented the sanctuary proposal from achieving the three quarters majority it needed to be adopted.

“Yet again Japan’s vote buying means that South Pacific Nations have been denied their right to a whale sanctuary,” said Sarah Duthie, Greenpeace oceans campaigner, who is attending the IWC meeting in London. “The fact that Japan has bought the votes of many developing countries, some of which are island states, is a slap in the face to the South Pacific and has grave consequences for the future protection of whales” she added.

South Pacific Nations have repeatedly requested that the sanctuary be established, most recently in a statement issued in Apia, Samoa in April 2001 (2). The proposal had the backing of South Pacific island states whose waters it would have covered and the majority support of countries at the IWC meeting.(3)

Today’s vote followed last week’s startling admission from a senior Japanese official that Japan has been using development aid to buy votes at the IWC (4). Japan is openly corrupting the IWC in order to prevent further conservation of whales and to advance its pro-whaling initiatives. Norway, Japan’s closest ally at the IWC and the only other country that actively whales commercially, at present refuses to denounce Japanese vote buying and is actively benefiting from it.

Unless challenged, Japan’s vote buying is set to continue. Namibia and Gabon, who recently signed lucrative fisheries deals with Japan, have now become observers of the IWC. It is expected that by next year’s IWC meeting in Shimonoseki, Japan, May 2002, Namibia and Gabon will have become fully fledged members and will vote in support of Japan and Norway’s pro- whaling initiatives.

“It is scandalous that Japan can simply buy its own way at the IWC and undermine the will of a vast majority of people worldwide who want to see whales protected. Unless the international community publicly condemns this blatant corruption, it may only a matter of months before we see a return to full scale commercial whaling and international trade in whale products,” concluded Duthie.

Notes to Editors:
Twenty countries voted in favour of the South Pacific Whale Sanctuary, thirteen against it. Ireland, Oman, Morocco and the Solomon Islands abstained on the vote.

Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, Rep of Guinea, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia, St Vincent and The Grenadines and Panama.

Others that voted against the proposal were: China, Denmark, Japan, Korea and Norway.

(2) The Apia Statement was signed by: Ministers of Australia, Fiji, Kiribati, New Zealand, Niue, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Tokelau; Ministerial Representatives from Cook Islands, Tuvalu and Tonga; Representatives of American Samoa, New Caledonia, French Polynesia, Wallis and Futuna.

(3) Countries that voted in favour of the proposal were: Argentina, Australia, Chile, Finland, Germany, India, Mexico, Monaco, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, New Zealand, Austria, Brazil, France, Italy, the Netherlands, the U.K. and the U.S.

(4) In interview broadcast on ABC TV last week, a senior Japanese official, Mr Komatsu, described minke whales as ‘cockroaches of the sea’ and admitted that Japan saw development aid as ‘a major tool’ in ensuring that key developing countries voted in favour of whaling at the IWC.


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