Close call: Whalers fail at IWC!

Greenpeace announces return to Southern Ocean to oppose "science" hunt

Feature story - June 16, 2006
We’re all breathing a sigh of relief as news comes through from St Kitts that pro-whaling nations led by Japan have failed to gain a majority at the International Whaling Commission (IWC). But that doesn’t mean they’ve seen the last of us – we are also announcing our return to the Southern Ocean this year to oppose the continued ‘scientific hunt’ which will target 935 minke whales and ten endangered fin whales.

Two humpback whales breaching.

During the first vote on the opening day of the Conference, Japan movedto have any reference for a discussion on conservation of smallcetaceans (dolphins and porpoises) to be struck from the agenda. Themotion was defeated 32 votes to 30. The second and deciding vote onJapan's call for secret ballots was defeated by 33 votes to 30. Thismeans the whalers have stumbled in their bid to take over the IWC.

UPDATE: But we lost thisone...

By a vote of 33 to 32 with oneabstention, the IWC adopted on Sunday something called "The St. KittsDeclaration" which lays out the whalers' case for a return to whaling,and declares a commitment to "normalize" the functions of theIWC.  Aside from, de facto, declaring a commitment to end themoratorium on commercial whaling, its most significant implication isthat it will be used to say that the IWC has accepted the whalers'argument that whales are eating too many fish. Which means that theresumption of whaling will be said to be a matter of food security forcoastal nations: i.e. since fish stocks are dwindling, and whales eatfish, we therefore must kill more whales.  We say blamingwhales for the massive fisheries depletions in the world today is likesaying woodpeckers are the cause of deforestation.

Shane Rattenbury, head of our Oceans Campaign and leader of ourSouthern Ocean expedition earlier this year, was at the IWC in StKitts. "Whaling history may not have been rewritten this year but itwas too close for comfort. The anti-whaling countries must see this asa wake-up call and add action to their rhetoric about protectingwhales," he challenged. "We're going back to the Southern Ocean tooppose the hunt. What are anti-whaling nations going to do to stop thehunt?"

Scientific sushi

With a simple majority at the Commission, Japan would not havebeen able tooverturn the commercial moratorium on whaling but it could have wreakedhavoc with the IWC's measure to protect whales. It could haveinstigated secret ballots, forced a resolution endorsing its"scientific" whaling program and called for on the Convention for theTrade in endangered Species (CITES) to lift its ban on the trade inminke whales. Already our ship had been denied access to St Kitts underthe excuse of "national security issues".

"For twenty years the Government of Japan has kept the whaling fleet onlife support under the guise of science, its time to face the fact thatthe whaling industry is dead in the water. It is time to stop thehunt," added Shane.

But the battle isn't over - this year 935 minke whales - and 10endangered fin whales - will be on the scientific menu. The results ofthis "science" are chopped and boxed for market on the "research" shipthe Nisshin Maru.

The price of "science"

For years Japan has been trying overturn the 1986 IWC moratoriumoncommercial whaling with a vote buying program aimed at developingnations. But one of our blog readers from St Kitts says, "I don't thinkJapan's bribe is going to save lives in St. Kitts …. As a developingnation with emphasis on eco tourism, and also whale watching - yeswhale watching - right in the channel between St. Kitts and Nevis. Thisselling of our vote to Japan is a travesty and will haunt Kittians andNevisians for decades to come."

This year we will once again challenge the whalers on the highseas, the question is what are the anti-whaling countries prepared todo?

We will continue to show the world what the whalers don't want youto see: the brutal reality of whaling. We will continue to peacefullyput our lives on the line to protect individual whales from theirharpoons. And we will continue to hold the anti-whaling countries toaccount until they take strong action to end whaling.

In the meantime, you can:

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All the news from the team at the IWC in St Kitts

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