*NEWS*DISASTER LOOMS FOR WHALES
*NEWS*DISASTER LOOMS FOR WHALES
2006-06-19 at 1:08:00 pm #15687
Disaster looms for whales
Caribbean nation St Kitts to host a disaster for whales
Japan poised to control the International Whaling Commission
June 2006Frigate Bay, Saint Kitts and Nevis – The international body charged by the UN with protecting the whales is about to be taken over by the world’s most consistently and aggressively pro-whaling government. How could this happen? In an environmentally aware world, why are we seeing a roll back of 20 years of progress on such a fundamental issue? The answer lies is in a tangle of politics, economics and international bureaucracy, and reveals there might be hope for the future of the whales after all.
The reality of vote buying
The main reason behind this reversal is the Japanese government’s determined, and expensive, vote buying program. Japan has one of the world’s largest economies (third globally by purchasing power), and it is no secret Japan leverages foreign aid for political gain. As reported recently in the Taipei Times:Earlier this year it [Japan] pledged more than US$1 million to the Pacific island of Tuvalu, a pro-whaling IWC member, and has reached similar deals with Nauru and Kiribati and other desperately poor countries in the Pacific. Last week it is believed to have offered a large aid package to other Pacific countries. It has also invited the heads of state of seven African countries and eight Caribbean and Central American countries to visit Tokyo in the last year. All are expected to vote with Japan at St Kitts.At least US$300 million was given last year to Antigua, Dominica, Grenada, Panama, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, and St Kitts and Nevis.Japan’s whalers are so certain their control of the IWC is assured, last whaling season they increased their self allotted Antarctic quota to a maximum of 945 whales – including 10 endangered fin whales (second in size only to blue whales). In the 2007/8 it goes higher as they up the number of fin to 50, and add another 50 endangered humpbacks on top of that. The whalers already catch so many whales there isn’t room on their factory ship for all the meat, and a refrigerated cargo ship is sent to the Antarctic to take boxes of whale meat back to Japan. Even still, they dump tons of whale overboard – taking home only the more profitable cuts. After all, why not? Who is there to tell them otherwise? Up till now, the IWC has regularly condemned Japan’s so called “scientific” whaling, but with the whaler’s in control it will more likely pat them on the back.
Governments stand up to whaling
Some of the governments that helped enact the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary (1994) and moratorium on commercial whaling (1986) have, in fact, tried to protect these gains. This past year 17 nations (including Brazil, Australia and the UK) issued a strongly worded diplomatic demarche pointing out:”Japan is now killing more whales in the Antarctic every year than it killed for scientific research in the 31 years prior to the introduction of the moratorium on commercial whaling.”The governments further expressed “grave concerns” that the ongoing hunt, “will undermine the long-term viability,” of both fin and humpback whales. But it looks like this strong diplomatic action, and ministerial level visits to some new IWC members, will not be enough to keep Japan from taking over. The reality is that the Japanese government has chosen to spend more money and political capital on whaling than governments in favour of protecting the whales. There is on some levels probably a disbelief that the whalers can win back control of the IWC – intuitively it just doesn’t make sense considering the mess they made of it before sanity prevailed in the early eighties. But for years now the warning signs have been clear. No matter what happens at this year’s meeting, it should be a wake up call for the conservation minded governments of the world.
So who is there left to stop whaling?
Mostly the people reading these words. From here on it’s largely down to us. And around the world individuals are banding together in common cause to defend the whales. During the last whaling season we took on Nissui – one of the world’s largest seafood companies and also a one-third shareholder in Kyodo Senpaku, which owns and operates the whaling fleet. Across the planet, Nissui subsidiaries heard from angry shoppers. Organizations like the Humane Society and Environmental Investigations Agency joined in. Greenpeace Ocean Defenders sent a total of 100,000 emails to Nissui-related companies. And Nissui lost seafood supply contracts in Argentina after Ocean Defenders placed stickers denouncing whaling on Nissui products in supermarkets and sent more than 20,000 emails. Before the whaling season was over, Nissui had decided to get out of the whaling industry because, as reported in the Nikkan Kugyo Shimbun “Overseas subsidiaries are having big problems. As our business has globalized, whaling has become a hidden risk”, said Mr. Naoya Itagaki, the president of Nissui which takes the brunt of the criticisms against its involvement in whaling because of their share holding position in Kyodo-Senpaku.
(June 8th 2006, morning edition, Greenpeace translation)
In reality, Nissui’s move was simply good business sense. Aside from international pressure, demand for whale meat has plummeted, even in Japan. Stockpiles of whale meat there have nearly doubled over the last decade to 5,000 tonnes. There’s so much unwanted whale meat that it’s being sold as doggie treats, and an expanded school lunch program is in the works – with the hope of getting Japanese kids used to eating it. The whaling industry in Norway is experiencing similar difficulties.Would Japan’s take over of the International Whaling Commission be a disastrous setback for the whales? Yes. But would it be the end of the story? We will see about that.