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War Over Whales

Shimonoseki, Japan/ Auckland, May 24, 2002: The democratic process took a pummeling again today at the IWC when the aboriginal peoples of the Inuit and Chukotka were denied their quota for a second time.

Japan now has the United States over a barrel, as the US is obliged by its treaty obligations with the Inuit to grant them their whaling quota.

To meet their treaty requirements the US will now have to contravene the IWC decision, setting a precedent that Japan and its alternate delegate Masayuki Komatsu will find very useful in pursuing their target of another 25 minke whales for their coastal whalers.

“Subsistence whaling is very different to the Fisheries Agency of Japan’s request for 25 minke whales for coastal whaling,” says Sarah Duthie, Greenpeace Oceans Campaigner.

“Coastal whaling is for profit, not to simply survive. Coastal whaling is commercial whaling, not subsistence whaling.

“Subsistence whaling means people have nothing else to eat. They will starve if they don’t get their quota.

“This is the most acrimonious IWC meeting Greenpeace has attended in the past 20 years,” says Duthie.

The Government of Japan and Komatsu’s obstructive tactics were made clear by their cynical manipulation of the aboriginal subsistence quota and by their manipulation of the countries they have bought.

“Vote buying by the Japanese Government is making a mockery of the democratic process at the IWC. The process should be decided by one country, one vote,” says Duthie.

“Instead, Japan wields 15 votes, even though these bought countries continue to embarrass themselves by insisting they are not bought.”

Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada, St Lucia, Dominica, St Kitts and Nevis, Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Panama continued to vote in line with Japan. Morocco uses abstentions to appear independent.

This year St Vincents and the Grenadines broke rank for the first time in two important votes - the sanctuaries vote and the vote on the Revised Management System (RMS), following a commitment by their Prime Minister to do so.

“We hope this sets a new path for St Vincents and the Grenadines that other countries in the region will follow,” says Duthie.

On all the key votes the four new countries Gabon, Benin, Palau and Mongolia voted with Japan as predicted. In particular, Mongolia’s voting record is identical to that of Japan.

However, despite this vote buying strategy, the Fisheries Agency of Japan has failed to secure any gains that would have led to a resumption of commercial whaling. But the Government of Japan will continue to carry out some commercial whaling under the dishonest title of “scientific research”.

Proposals by the Government of Japan for secret ballots, which would have provided cover for vote buying and viewed by many as undemocratic, also failed.

Greenpeace is obviously disappointed that the proposals for a South Pacific Whale Sanctuary and a South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary failed. Given that these proposals had the support of the countries within the sanctuary, it is extremely disturbing that the Governments of Japan, Norway, Antigua and Barbuda, Palau and many others see fit to deny these countries their wishes.

“But the countries that proposed both these sanctuaries will continue to push forward in the hope that the wishes of both regions will eventually be respected,” says Duthie.

“Indeed, today one of the countries of the South Pacific, Samoa, has declared its EEZ a Whale Sanctuary.


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