Spectre of vote buying hangs over whaling talks
Amsterdam/Auckland: Vote buying by the Fisheries Agency of Japan (FAJ) has forced the International Whaling Commission (IWC) to convene a special meeting in Cambridge (UK) today, said Greenpeace. The special meeting, only the fifth in over 50 years, has been set to determine whether the IWC can now agree to grant an aboriginal subsistence quota to the Alaskan Eskimos and Russian Chukotka peoples.
The US Eskimos and other indigenous peoples who hunt whales for subsistance do not fall under the IWC's moratorium on commercial whaling and quotas. These are based on scientific advice and are usually agreed by consensus. However, at the last IWC meeting, Japan tried to link the joint Russian/US aboriginal subsistance quota to a commercial quota for its own whalers and then used a bloc of bought votes  to block the subsistence quota when its own commercial request was not granted.
"The Fisheries Agency of Japan was clearly attempting to blackmail the US by using the vote bought countries to block the aboriginal quota," said Richard Page, Greenpeace Oceans Campaigner. "They have said they will allow the quota to pass at this meeting, but there is no guarantee that the Fisheries Agency won't employ this tactic at future meetings."
The Fisheries Agency of Japan's (FAJ) use of development aid to buy votes in the IWC is well documented with both senior Japanese officials and representatives of bought countries admitting to the practice (1). By this means the FAJ now commands a blocking minority within the IWC. Under the IWC's rules, a minority of over 25% can block a quota.
"The Government of Japan is set on buying a return to commercial whaling," said Page. "Unless action is taken to stop vote buying, they may succeed."
Conservationists fear that the vote buying offensive may spread into other conservation bodies. Japan has proposed that the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) should end its ban on trade in whale products and has called for a vote at the next CITES meeting in November.
For further information: Sarah Duthie, Greenpeace New Zealand Oceans Campaigner, 021 927 301 Richard Page, Greenpeace Oceans Campaigner, +44 7801 212966 Robert Maletta, Greenpeace Media Officer, +126.96.36.199920
Visit us at our website: www.greenpeace.org
Notes: (1) "Buying A Return To Commercial Whaling", a Greenpeace briefing, April 2002. Download it at: www.greenpeace.org/multimedia/download/1/9485/0/Buying_ a_Return_to_Commercial_Whaling.pdf
(2) The countries voting with Japan were: Antigua and Barbuda, Benin, Dominica, Gabon, Grenada, Guinea, Mongolia, Palau, Panama, St. Kitts, St. Lucia, St Vincent and the Solomon Islands. Benin, Gabon, Palau and Mongolia had all joined the IWC within 2 weeks of the meeting's start. Benin and Gabon have recently received fisheries aid packages from Japan; Mongolia said that they had joined to help Japan.