Karli Thomas, Greenpeace oceans campaigner writes from the IWC meeting in Morocco...
The town of Sidi R’bat on Morocco’s Atlantic coast is where the biblical Jonah is said to have been vomited up by a whale. Less than 100km from that spot, something has been going on this week that is again enough to make a whale sick to the stomach.
The International Whaling Commission has met this year beneath a dark cloud of scandal. As delegates descended on the city of Agadir, media headlines exposed Japan “buying” countries to vote with them – including the accusation that airfares and accommodation for this meeting’s acting chairman were paid by Japan. Hardly an auspicious start to a crucial international meeting, nor a good omen for the whales.
Allegations that prostitutes and envelopes of cash, as well as ‘financial assistance with strings attached’ were exchanged for support of the otherwise unpopular whaling industry may be a shock, but to those following the desperate death throes of the Japanese, Norwegian and Icelandic whaling industries, they come as no surprise.
On this backdrop of corruption and scandal, countries were attempting to reach agreement on the future of the Commission, with the goal of improving the conservation and management of the world’s whales. We believe this attempt was one worth making, and were pushing countries to respect the moratorium on commercial whaling and make some drastic improvements to the draft proposal made by the IWC chairman – a proposal that was grossly inadequate.
On day one the meeting lowered its tone, expelling NGOs and media so that countries, grouped into pro-conservation blocs, could meet in private with each of the whale hunting nations plus South Korea (which has repeatedly expressed its wish to resume commercial whaling). In what was seen by outsiders as some sort of obscene speed-dating arrangement, a day and a half of precious time was wasted in discussions that yielded nothing.
With me here in Agadir is my friend Junichi, who is currently facing the grim possibility of 18 months jail in Japan for his part in exposing embezzlement and corruption at the heart of the Japanese government’s whaling programme. He is willing to risk his freedom to bring an end to commercial whaling – yet governments meeting this week seem unwilling to risk very much at all to bring this goal any closer.
Yesterday, it was Junichi who made public the failure of countries to achieve progress for the whales. Countries have moved on to discussing a “cooling off period” of one year before negotiations resume. Whatever they mean by cooling off, it’s not cool by us. Time is precious for the world’s whales. Norway and Iceland will be killing whales in the next few weeks if they aren’t already, and the Japanese fleet is at sea now, hunting down whales in the North Pacific including endangered sei whales.
Greenpeace is opposed to all commercial whaling in all of our oceans. We were hoping that this year, countries might be able to take a hard negotiating stance to finally produce an agreement that would save whales, not dying whaling industries. While we did not support the proposal on the table, it is shameful that leaders here were unable to change it into something positive. That means Japan, Iceland and Norway will continue to kill whales with impunity. Behind closed doors, governments have effectively ushered in another year of the status quo in which around two thousand whales may die needlessly. Die in the name of science we don’t need, and meat that no-one wants. Die at the expense of taxpayers, many of whom do not even support whaling, to line the pockets of a few men still seeking to profit from a plunder that belongs in the century past.
It’s enough to make a whale sick.
Take action now by sending a letter to Japan - calling for an end to whaling in the Southern Ocean and justice for the Tokyo Two.