Anti-Whaling Efforts Harpooned

By Van Note, Craig | Earth Island Journal, Winter 2000 | Go to article overview

Anti-Whaling Efforts Harpooned


Van Note, Craig, Earth Island Journal


Intrigue rocks International Whaling Commission

ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA -- The annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in July was dominated by a move to expedite a resumption of commercial whaling and by Japan's attempted "vote buying" to prevent further whale protections.

Throughout the four-day summit, Japan and Norway demanded an end to the IWC's ban on commercial whaling and Japan declared that it would expand its use of so-called "research" whaling.

The IWC has rejected Japan's claims that it is engaged in "scientific research," noting that the "results" of this research typically wind up on the meat counters of Japan's public fish markets.

Japan, Norway, and their allies defeated a proposal to conduct DNA tests of whale meat in Japanese and Norwegian markets. Independent tests have repeatedly found meat from endangered and protected whales on Japanese supermarket shelves.

Australia and New Zealand (who wish to ban Japan from hunting whales in their regional waters) led the battle to create a whale sanctuary in the South Pacific next to the existing Southern Ocean and Indian Ocean whale sanctuaries. Earth Island and other groups supported the sanctuary, but Japan and six Caribbean nations defeated the plan by a vote of 18-to-11, three votes short of the necessary three-quarters majority.

For more than a decade, Japan has given tens of millions of dollars in aid to several Caribbean island states -- St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Lucia, Grenada, Antigua and Barbuda, St. Kitts and Nevis, and Dominica. This aid was designed to buy their votes to sabotage conservation measures proposed through the IWC, the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), and the Convention on Biological Diversity.

Japan's blatant vote-buying touched off a scandal during the IWC meeting when Atherton Martin, Dominica's Minister of Environment, Agriculture, and Fisheries, resigned in protest after his prime minister overrode a cabinet-level decision to abstain on key whaling votes.

Since Dominica joined the IWC, Martin said, Japan has given the tiny nation of 70,000 people more than $7 million in new fisheries facilities. One month before the IWC meeting, a Japanese delegation visited Dominica's new president and reportedly threatened to cut off further aid if Dominica abstained at the IWC.

"It is international extortion by Japan," Martin declared. "If Japan didn't have this influence, Dominica wouldn't have any business as a member of this political organization. We're not a whaling nation: We are a whale-watching nation."

Japan is not alone in using bribes to promote its whaling agenda. Oslo's Dagbladet newspaper revealed that the Norwegian government has been secretly funding anti-conservation groups around the world.

The Dagbladet has reported that prior to the April CITES meeting in Nairobi, Norway's Ministry of Fisheries and Ministry of Foreign Affairs "gave large sums of money to Norwegian and foreign lobby organizations to ensure a majority for commercial whaling."

The lobbyists included Eugene Lapointe, the former CITES head who, after being fired for incompetence in 1990, founded the pro-exploitation International Wildlife Management Consortium. …

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