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Whaling means whale watching, says New Zealand


Whaling means whale watching, says New Zealand

High North News (17.06.03): New Zealand made the day at today’s deliberations of the annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission by arguing that whaling means whale watching.

In response to a question from Iceland on how whale sanctuaries can be justified with respect to the Whaling Convention’s objective of promoting the whaling industry, New Zealand’s Commissioner Sir Geoffrey Palmer boldly responded that the “whaling industry certainly includes whale watching.”

Reactions ranged from astonishment to non-English delegates asking themselves what they had missed from the English language. However, the ensuing discussion confirmed that there was no misunderstanding.

“While we disagree on most issues, I honestly thought we agreed that whaling means the hunting and killing of whales. If we are to take New Zealand seriously, it means that commercial whale watching is also defined as whaling. Therefore, it is not allowed because commercial whaling is banned. Nor would whale watching be allowed inside sanctuaries, as proposed by New Zealand, because they contain a clause prohibiting whaling,” says Kristjan Loftsson, Executive Director of an Icelandic whaling company, to the High North News.

“My personal understanding is that New Zealand does not wish to ban whale watching, on the contrary. But this type of argument clearly demonstrates the contradictions and hypocrisies that have plagued the Whaling Commission for so many years. They argue for views that the Convention does not allow, but at the same time they try to argue in accordance with the Convention. This is nothing but a circus,” says Mr Loftsson, also known as Iceland’s Captain Ahab, taken from Herman Melville’s famous novel, Moby Dick.

The Oxford dictionary defines whaling as “the activity or business of hunting and killing whales”.

Sir Geoffrey’s legal opinion is worth listening to because he is an expert on constitutional and international law, a Professor of Law at Victoria University in Wellington, a former Minister of Justice, and has served as an ad hoc judge at the International Court of Justice in the Hague. As Prime Minister of New Zealand in 1990, he made the first official visit to Japan in nine years.

“Apparently at that visit he learnt that whaling also means whale watching,” says Mr Loftsson.

Meanwhile as expected, the two proposals for whale sanctuaries in the South Pacific and South Atlantic failed today.

The South Pacific sanctuary was defeated for the fourth time, with 24 votes in favour and 17 votes against. While the South Atlantic sanctuary was defeated for the third time with 24 votes in favour and 19 against. In order to be carried, a 75% majority would have been needed.


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