The Japanese Fisheries Agency whaling fleet leaves Shimonoseki, Japan bound for the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary with plans to harpoon 935 minke whales and 10 endangered fin whales.
Almost every single person on this ship comes from a country
thatsays they are opposed to whaling. But saying you are opposed
towhaling, and then doing something about it are two different
things;there is a whole spectrum of action and inaction that lies
between. So,while we are here amongst the icebergs of the Southern
Ocean, preparingto take direct action to save whales from Japanese
Government's whalingfleet's deadly harpoons... what is going on in
the rest of the world?
The changing face of the IWC
From one International Whaling Commission (IWC) meeting to the
next,the Japanese government works away at recruiting new countries
to votepro-whaling... However, although the IWC started life as
anorganisation that represented fifteen whaling nations in the
divvyingup of the oceans' whales and tried to keep things from
getting too farout of hand - the IWC has now changed. Over time,
nations that wantedto see whales protected began joining, giving
strength and a voice forthe whales. Those years saw the
introduction of the moratorium oncommercial whaling and the
establishment of the Southern Ocean WhaleSanctuary. But is that
momentum now slipping away, and the majorityeroding?
St Kitts and Nevis
Last year, the IWC meeting at St Kitts and Nevis gave everyone
awake-up call. The year before they were to host the IWC, the
governmentreceived hundreds of millions of yen from Japan for
fisheriesdevelopment. Six hundred and seventeen million to be
exact. Comemeeting time, they refused entry to the Greenpeace ship
Arctic Sunrise,and arrested Greenpeace activists during a peaceful
protest in whichthey were erecting 945 whale tails on a beach,
symbolising the whalesdue to be killed in the upcoming hunt. At the
meeting itself,pro-whaling countries attempted to abolish the
Southern Ocean WhaleSanctuary. Although established twelve years
earlier with only a singlevote (Japan) against it, the Sanctuary
now retained only a slimmajority: 33 votes to 28.
Perhaps that was just the wake up call that was needed. Since
then,Croatia and Slovenia, both pro-conservation countries, have
joined theIWC. There is hope for others to finalise their
membership, in time toshore up support for the whales at the
Anchorage meeting in May. Othercountries with debts to the
organisation - it's not cheap to belong have lost their right to
vote. Peru, Kenya and Costa Rica, which haveall supported whales in
the past, have lost their votes in this way.And then, there are
those countries where the government simply - forwhatever reason -
votes against the wishes of their people. Denmark andNicaragua both
vote with the Japanese government, though at home theirpublic are
supportive of whale conservation.
A 2006 poll done by WWF in 10 poor developing countries,
recruitedby the Japanese Government to vote with it at the IWC,
found that innine out of ten of these countries, more people
thought that theircountry should vote against commercial whaling
than favoured a vote forit. In one Caribbean country which is a
particularly vocal supporter ofJapan, 79 percent of the population
opposed whaling and only 14 percent supported it.In seven of these
countries, people were not even aware that theircountry was a
member of the IWC.
Is your government taking action?
As May draws closer, and the next meeting of the IWC looms, we
needto do all we can to protect whales, not just from the immediate
dangerof explosive harpoons, but from the longer-term threat of
theirprotection being gradually eroded. That's why the expedition
to theSouthern Ocean is just one part of what we are doing. Each
member ofour crew knows that whatever we do here will be in vain if
ourcountries aren't working at a political level to ensure
they have thesupport they need at the IWC. And all those
campaigners and activistsout there (you all!) - in countries that
are on the brink of joiningthe IWC, countries that need to pay off
their debts, countries whosegovernments are not representing their
own people with their IWC votes,or are not doing enough to support
the whales - can join this effort.
Make sure your government is in Anchorage in May, voting for the whales.
Talk to crew
Respond to this article on our weblog