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Buying the world's whales


Melbourne/Auckland: The Japanese Government has already spent more than NZ $755m on buying a return to full scale commercial whaling, said Greenpeace today after its expedition ship MV Arctic Sunrise docked in Melbourne.

After six weeks dogging the Japanese whaling fleet in Antarctica Greenpeace activists on board the Arctic Sunrise expressed their pure frustration that despite all their efforts money may be the deciding factor in the future of the whales.

"The Japanese government is determined to restart whaling by any means. It's buying votes and ultimately it's buying the world's whales," said New Zealand Greenpeace Campaigner, Sarah Duthie at a press conference on the Arctic Sunrise.

A research document released today showed new figures on the staggering sums of money passing hands to overturn the current ban on commercial whaling. In 2001 alone more than NZ$100m was spent buying the votes of six countries. This money is described by the Fisheries Agency of Japan as fisheries aid grants, but the Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda admitted that the money was in return for voting with Japan on whaling issues. Japan has also publicly admitted that it is buying votes, but no-one has previously added up the cost to Japanese tax- payers.

According to official ODA figures and publications from the Institute of Cetacean Research, fisheries aid grants exceeds NZ$490m - while subsidies for research whaling amount to NZ$265m. The total amount spent since the start of the moratorium on whaling in 1987 is more than NZ$755m, though even this leaves out a range of other costs in the campaign to bring back whaling. Greenpeace reports that Japanese government departments have hired international lobbyists and a PR firm as well as paying for advertising campaigns.

"While the Japanese economy is failing, our Government is wasting billions of yen to force the world to restart whaling," said Japanese campaigner Yuko Hirono. "Japan should not be using such extreme methods to get what it wants. Every member of the Japanese public pays for this and they don't even realise it."

Yuko is one of 30 Greenpeace campaigners on board the Arctic Sunrise who have endured ferocious Antarctic conditions to stop the take of whales. They have witnessed the harpooning and tried to prevent it and been targeted with high-powered water cannon from the factory ship Nisshin Maru. So far it is estimated that the whalers have taken over 200 minke whales out of their target of 440.

For further information contact: Sue Cooper, Media Officer Tel: + 61 (0) 408268024 MV Arctic Sunrise - New Zealand Greenpeace Oceans Campaigner: Sarah Duthie (English language) or Yuko Hirono (Japanese) Tel: + 61 (0) 438740454 Footageand stills: Kate Davison Tel: + 61 (0) 418 204869 BrendanLynch, communications officer 021 790 817 Pia Mancia 025 927 301

See also

Editors Notes:
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". This was independently corroborated by the Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Lester Bird. 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's vote buying programme is gathering momentum. At the 1993 meeting the Fisheries Agency had just 4 countries on their payroll. By 1999 there were 7. 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 use of money to undermine international institutions in this way appears to be a growing trend by Japan. In the last two years Japanese officials have used these tactics in the election of a UN agency head, attempts to weaken protection for whales at CITES and, most recently, in attempts to increase the number of Nobel prizes awarded to Japan. (see "How much has the Japanese Government spent in its efforts to overturn the moratorium on commercial whaling?")

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