Away from public notice and behind closed doors delegates of the International Whaling Commission are hammering out a final plan to resume commercial whaling. Outside Auckland’s Ascot Metropolis hotel where the delegates are staying Greenpeace is keeping vigil. Activists wearing eyeball costumes are shadowing the delegates whenever they appear publicly. As the sun sets over Auckland’s harbour giant color photos of whaling are projected onto a large wall opposite the hotel. “Stop Whaling” posters and banners are hung in strategic shopping and eating venues to put the delegates on notice that the world is watching.
Through a series of public engagement activities throughout this week, Greenpeace will raise public awareness that commercial whaling is on its way back should the pro-whaling nations have their way.
The Government of Japan’s vote-buying strategy has dramatically increased pressure on anti-whaling countries to agree to a management plan for whaling. Full-scale commercial whaling could be resumed despite deep differences over the plan because vote buying by the Fisheries Agency of Japan is likely to secure a majority at the May 2002 meeting of the IWC where the plan is to be discussed.
“What Japan is doing should be condemned in the strongest terms,” said Sarah Duthie, Greenpeace Oceans campaigner. “The failure of the international community to say something sends the signal that issues of international concern will be decided by the highest bidder. In this case, we’re concerned that vote buying means a return to full-scale commercial whaling worldwide.”
Last year’s International Whaling Commission’s meeting was shaken when a senior Japanese official admitted that his country uses aid to buy votes. A Caribbean Prime Minister who admitted that his country supports Japan on whaling in return for aid corroborated this. There were ten bought countries at last year’s meeting in London, up from five countries attending the IWC in 1993. (1)
“Given how commercial whaling has always devastated whale populations in the past and how the world’s remaining whales are now seriously threatened from the on-going degradation of the oceans (2), the IWC should not be developing such a scheme. What the IWC must address is Japanese vote-buying or be responsible for the consequences,” said Duthie. “The precedent the Fisheries Agency is setting undermines acceptable norms of behavior. Any victory by them at the next IWC meeting will have been bought and not won.”
In recent weeks, the Fisheries Agency of Japan has declared that it wants to lift the moratorium on commercial whaling. Should the Government of Japan succeed in buying votes to attain a majority at the upcoming IWC meeting in Japan, then it will have gained a significant advantage toward expanding whale hunting in other parts of the world.
The end of the present planning meeting will mark 80 days until the next IWC meeting and with it a possible resumption of commercial whaling.
1) In the run-up to the
2001 IWC meeting a senior member of the Japanese delegation,
Mr. Komatsu, confirmed that Japan was vote buying. In an
interview with ABC TV, Australia, Mr. Komatsu admitted that
Japan had to use the “tools of diplomatic communications and
promises of overseas development aid to influence members of
the International Whaling Commission". The Prime Minister
of Antigua and Barbuda, Lester Bird, independently
corroborated this. The Caribbean News Agency, CANA,
reported him saying: "So long as the whales are not an
endangered species, I don’t see any reason why if we are
able to support the Japanese, and the quid pro quo is that
they are going to give us some assistance, I am not going to
be a hypocrite; that is part of why we do so."
The Fisheries Agency of Japan’s vote buying programme is gathering momentum. At the 1993 meeting the Fisheries Agency had just five countries on their payroll. By 1999 there were seven. Japan brought one new country into the IWC in 2000 and two more in 2001. The Agency now enjoys the support of ten nations whose votes are paid for: Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Guinea, Grenada, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Lucia, St. Kitts and Nevis, Solomon Island, Panama and Morocco. All of these except Morocco vote with Japan on every issue. The votes of these countries, combined with those of nations like China, Korea, Norway and Russia, which vote with Japan for their own reasons mean that the Fisheries Agency is within 3 or 4 votes of having a majority in the IWC.
The Fisheries Agency of Japan is believed to have stepped up its vote buying drive, concentrating on West Africa.
2) There is evidence that toxic pollution, ship
noise, ozone depletion, global warming, and overfishing
threaten whale populations. For more information see the
Greenpeace report, “Whales In A Degraded Ocean” (available
on the Greenpeace website).