Close call: Whalers fail at IWC!

Feature story - June 19, 2006
IWC, Saint Kitts and Nevis - 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.

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

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

Scientific sushi

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

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

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

The price of "science"

For years Japan has been trying overturn the 1986 IWC moratorium on commercial whaling with a vote buying program aimed at developing nations. But one of our blog readers from St Kitts says, "I don't think Japan's bribe is going to save lives in St. Kitts …. As a developing nation with emphasis on eco tourism, and also whale watching - yes whale watching - right in the channel between St. Kitts and Nevis. This selling of our vote to Japan is a travesty and will haunt Kittians and Nevisians for decades to come."

This year we will once again challenge the whalers on the high seas, the question is what are the anti-whaling countries prepared to do?

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

In the meantime, you can: