GAMBLING WITH THE FUTURE OF WHALES:
IWC MEETING TO CONSIDER RESUMPTION OF COMMERCIAL WHALING
Monaco, 6th February 2001--- A special intersessional meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) opens today in Monaco to "make further progress" on a scheme that, if agreed, will take the world significantly closer to the resumption of large-scale commercial whaling.
The Revised Management Scheme (RMS) aims to establish a set of rules (including those covering inspection and observation) that would be used if the IWC agreed to allow countries to hunt whales for commercial purposes again. In the past, commercial whaling brought many whale populations to the brink of extinction - a fact which led the IWC to agree to an international moratorium on all commercial whaling, which has been in effect since 1986 (1).
Under IWC rules, the moratorium cannot be lifted until there is an agreed RMS. The recommendations from the Monaco meeting will be subject for approval at the IWC's regular conference in July 2001, to be held in London.
"Commercial whaling should have no place as we go into the 21st century," said John Frizell of Greenpeace International. "A resumption of commercial whaling is nothing more than a gamble with the future of the whales. Greenpeace urges the government representatives at the IWC to change their focus away from the exploitation and toward the conservation of whales."
The two whaling nations, Norway and Japan, are pressing for an immediate resumption of commercial whaling while others, such as Monaco, remain resolutely opposed (2). Three Scandinavian countries, Denmark, Finland and Sweden, currently support the precepts of the RMS management system.
Greenpeace activists yesterday staged a protest at the Scandinavian embassies in Berlin. In addition to a banner with the words 'no whaling - no trade - no quotas', the activists displayed a second banner in Norwegian, Finnish, Danish and Swedish calling on these countries not to support the RMS.
"The ocean habitat of whales is already badly degraded by toxic pollution, global climate change, over-fishing, ozone depletion, and even noise pollution", added Frizell. "If the IWC goes forward with plans to resume whaling, the increases in catches, added to the existing environmental threats, could lead to a point of no return for the survival of some whale populations”.
For information: John Frizell, Greenpeace International, at the Monaco meeting - Luisa Colasimone, Greenpeace Communication, mobile +31 6 21 29 69 20
Notes: Althoughthe IWC banned commercial whaling in 1986, Japan and Norway have continued to hunt, despite repeated requests from the IWC to halt and their catches are rising. Jointly, they caught over 1,000 whales in 2000. Norway's whalers have recently called for their quotas to be quadrupled and some Norwegian authorities are calling for a catch of 3,000 a year, more than the pre-moratorium level.
Three weeks ago Norway announced a resumption of whale meat exports despite the fact that the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) forbids international trade in whale meat. (Norway has a reservation to this ruling.) Norway has tried unsuccessfully three times to overturn this ban. Their most recent attempt in April 2000 failed by a greater margin than the previous one.
Last year, Japan expanded its so-called 'scientific' hunt in the North Pacific to include two new species - sperm and Bryde's whales - despite a strongly worded resolution from the IWC requesting Japan not to issue permits.
(2) On Friday, 14 countries (Austria, Brazil, Finland, Germany, Greece, Italy, Luxembourg, Monaco, The Netherlands, New Zealand, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom) made an official approach to the Japanese Foreign Ministry calling on Japan to reconsider its policy in the domain of commercial whaling.
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