Japan and its vote-bought countries hold aboriginal peoples hostage at IWC

Press release - 23 May, 2002

Voting remains controversial at IWC.

Today Antigua and Barbuda, Mongolia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, St Lucia, Dominica, Grenada, St Kitts and Nevis, Guinea, Gabon, Benin, the Solomon Islands, Palau, Grenada and Panama voted with Japan at the IWC to deny the Inuit people of Alaska and the Chukotka people of Russia their aboriginal subsistence whaling quota.

Never before in the history of the IWC has an aboriginal whaling quota been denied.

"This is the most blatant example we have yet seen of the Japanese government´s vote buying manipulating the IWC," says Greenpeace oceans campaigner Richard Page.

"Aboriginal peoples are being held hostage so the government of Japan can further its push to resume commercial whaling," Page says.

Aboriginal subsistence whaling is allowed by the IWC in order to meet the basic nutritional needs of aboriginal people. The government of Japan is likening aboriginal subsistence needs to whaling carried out by Japanese coastal communities for commercial profit.

"This is a cynical move by the government of Japan to hold the IWC to ransom in order to try and get a coastal whaling quota of 50 Minke whales, that it had asked for and was refused earlier this week. The IWC rightly sees Japan´s request for coastal whaling quota as pure commercial whaling and has denied its request for 14 years running."

The IWC recognises two categories of whaling, aboriginal subsistence whaling and commercial whaling.

Many countries spoke of this result as appalling and that it was undermining of the democratic process of the IWC meeting.

The Russian delegate highlighted the hypocrisy, saying that those countries, like Japan, which complain of double standards had actually applied triple standards. He suggested that new member Mongolia may have been "misorientated" in its voting.

The vote on whether to grant the Inuit and Chukotka people their aboriginal whaling quota was defeated by a vote of 30 in favour, 14 against, with China abstaining. The vote failed to achieve the necessary three quarters majority.

The Commissioners have now adjourned to a private meeting.