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Statement to International Whaling Commission

Te Ohu Kaimoana Opening Statement International Whaling Commission [Te Ohu Kaimoana (Maori Fisheries Trust)]

Te Ohu Kaimoana is the pre-eminent body representing Maori – the indigenous people of Aotearoa / New Zealand – in relation to the marine environment and has attended the last four IWC annual meetings. Maori support the rights of other indigenous and coastal peoples in maintaining their traditional practices in relation to whales and whaling, support sustainability through effective fisheries management regimes, and seek a pragmatic approach to resolving whaling differences.

Since 1995, we have been involved with whaling issues worldwide through our founding membership of the World Council of Whalers, which is made up of indigenous and coastal whaling peoples around the world. In 2000, Te Ohu Kaimoana hosted the World Council of Whalers 3rd conference in the South Island of New Zealand. It is extremely important to indigenous whaling peoples, and therefore to Te Ohu Kaimoana, that differences over whaling are resolved through this “Future of the IWC” process.

Over the years, Te Ohu Kaimoana has encouraged the parties to bridge their fundamental differences over whaling so that unfair and restrictive policies can be abolished. It is our view that aboriginal subsistence whaling, where indigenous and coastal peoples have to beg the Commission for a quota for food, is a demeaning term and a belittling process. We do not distinguish between commercial and non-commercial utilisation of fisheries resources; we do distinguish between sustainable and unsustainable practices – and there is no science to say existing whaling conducted under the Convention is unsustainable.

Despite following the rigorous process and receiving ringing endorsement last year from the Scientific Committee that a request for 10 humpback whales was perfectly sustainable and would have no effect on that stock of whales, the indigenous people of Greenland were denied access to a traditional food. This is an example of how politics in individual countries interferes with science of this organisation and traditions of other people. We fail to grasp why some gourmet who eats foie gras or people from countries that continue with inhumane, industrial farming of poultry, for example, feel they have the right to stop others from eating traditional food.

In respect of the current process to find a resolution, Te Ohu Kaimoana praises the work of Sir Geoffrey Palmer, the Chairman of the Commission Cristian Maquieira, and the vice-Chair Anthony Liverpool, in producing the compromise proposal. The proposal provides a very good beginning and basis for continued discussions in Morocco. It provides practical recommendations on the way forward, recommendations that are promises to all parties but also attempts to find solutions for all.

It is therefore of extreme concern to us those member countries that do not support the hunting of whales in any form push for unreasonable concessions from whaling nations. The compromise proposal that’s on the table is only the beginning. It is designed to buy the IWC time to work through much more difficult issues than what the parties are discussing here in Morocco. To seek the complete cessation of whaling through this interim agreement is disingenuous. It also runs the risk of imploding the IWC.

Whaling nations have offered numerous compromises and brought concessions to the negotiating table. But there are a significant number of anti-whaling members who cannot grasp the political reality. While we urge members to continue talking through the issues, we do not believe it would be unreasonable in the circumstances for whaling countries to abandon the IWC and leave it to those whose intransigence will bring about its demise.

We acknowledge the views that some have in regards to the Southern Ocean and its importance to them. As we are from New Zealand, we understand the fragility of the Antarctic eco-system and the need to treat it with respect. It is necessary that whaling issues are resolved sooner rather than later. Whaling in the Southern Ocean is either legal and should go ahead unhindered or it is not and should stop. We remain concerned by the continued violence perpetrated in the Antarctic each year by people interfering with another country’s legal right to undertake research under the Whaling Convention.

The right to undertake sustainable hunting of whales is inherent within the Convention – it is about conservation and protection, with the principle of sustainable use inherent within the term “conservation”. It is only through mutual respect for each other’s viewpoints and acknowledgement that the ICRW, to which all parties have adhered, is a resource management Convention that we believe the parties can reach agreement.


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