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Whales for Gold?

Whales for Gold?

Shimonoseki, Japan/Auckland, Monday 20 May, 2002: Greenpeace members dressed up as Fisheries Agency of Japan senior official Masayuki Komatsu tempted developing nations with “sanpou gold” in exchange for their votes as the plenary session of the 54th meeting of the International Whaling Commission got underway in Shimonoseki today.

Sanpou is a traditional Japanese tray on which offerings to God or the Buddha at religious ceremonies are made. It was used by 17th century businessmen to slip “under the table” money to their feudal lords to win a monopoly for their business.

The Fishery Agency of Japan (FAJ) uses Fisheries Grant Aid to buy the votes of developing countries. The strategy has been in place since the early 1990s. Documented evidence includes statements made by high-ranking Japanese officials and the testimony of Prime Minister Lester Bird of Antigua and Barbuda, one of the bought countries.

“Vote buying by the FAJ holds vulnerable developing nations to ransom, exploiting their desperate need for financial aid. It undermines their sovereignty and independence and makes them poorer in the long run, because the decisions made on their behalf are not in their best interests,” says Sarah Duthie, Greenpeace Oceans Campaigner.

“Countries are seduced by the FAJ into selling themselves out in the short term, instead of adopting sustainable development practices that will enrich them from now into the future.”

In 1999 the FAJ vote buying offensive was stepped up with Guinea joining the IWC in 2000 and Morocco and Panama joining in 2001. All three consistently voted in line with Japan.

In the last week Benin, Gabon, Palau and Mongolia have joined and are expected to vote in favour of a resumption of commercial whaling. These votes added to those of the pro- whaling countries may provide the Government of Japan with a simple majority, although this will not be clear until votes are actually taken within the meeting.

“Vote buying by the Fisheries Agency of Japan is the greatest threat to the future of the world’s remaining whales,” says Duthie.

“While a simple majority (>50 percent) is not enough to overturn the moratorium because a three quarters majority is necessary, it’s enough for the Government of Japan to make changes in the IWC’s rules that will accelerate the downwards slide towards a resumption of commercial whaling,” says Duthie.
Securing a simple majority would enable the Government of Japan to change the rules of procedure and introduce secret ballots, something it has been pushing for a number of years.

“Greenpeace strongly opposes secret ballots because they make countries unaccountable for their actions and fly in the face of the current trend for increased transparency in international fora,” Duthie says.

Greenpeace sanpou bearers included the Executive Director of Greenpeace Japan, Masashi Kimura, Greenpeace Netherlands Director of International Affairs Geert Drieman and Greenpeace Argentina Whales Campaigner Milko Shwarzman. Greenpeace Germany’s Campaign Director Thomas Henningsen held a banner reading “Aid for aid, not for whaling”.

For further information:
in Shimonoseki: Sarah Duthie, Greenpeace New Zealand Oceans Campaigner
+81 (0) 90 9363 9935
In New Zealand: Pia Mancia, Greenpeace New Zealand Whales Campaigner, 021 927 301, or Brendan Lynch, Communications Officer, 021 790 817

Background information and current updates:

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