1 Tahrcountry Musings: Sad day for the whales

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Sad day for the whales

20 Jun 2006
St Kitts and Nevis – Japan’s recruitment drive to bring pro-whaling, anti-conservation countries into the International Whaling Commission (IWC) has finally succeeded.

Pro-whaling countries obtained a narrow majority — 33 to 32, with one abstention from China — showing an abdication of responsibility by the global community, WWF said today at the 58th IWC meeting.

The vote for the so called “St Kitts and Nevis Declaration”, a non-legally binding statement asks for a “normalization” of the IWC — which according to Japan and its supporters — means it should return to its original 1946 mandate to regulate whaling, rather than concentrate also on conservation issues.

The St Kitts and Nevis Declaration also attempts to bring into question the scientific rationale for the global ban on whale hunting in 1986 and also slams non-governmental organizations. It also purports to give legitimacy to the scientifically invalid claim that whale populations are responsible for the decline of the world’s fisheries.

“We are saddened and disappointed that instead of building consensus on difficult issues, this declaration has brought both sides to the brink of open conflict," said Dr Susan Lieberman, Director of WWF’s Global Species Programme.

"WWF agrees that the IWC has serious deficiencies and needs modernization and reform, but this declaration takes the IWC in the wrong direction.”

This is the first time in decades that there has been a pro-whaling majority at the IWC.

"This is a shallow political victory for the whaling countries and their allies, and we hope this will be a wake up call to conservation-minded countries and peoples of the world, " added Dr Lieberman.

“At a critical juncture in conservation globally, when whales and other marine species are threatened by a range of threats, including climate change, bycatch, ship strikes, and other threats, it is sad to see the IWC moving backwards. We hope this is only temporary.”

Many of the countries that opposed the resolution stated for the record that they disassociated themselves from the declaration. Of the 17 European Union members to the IWC, only Denmark voted for the proposal.

There is no guarantee that other critical votes will be lost. The moratorium on whaling will stay in place as it needs a three-quarter majority to be overturned.

"Despite the moratorium staying in place for the time being, the IWC is poised on a knife edge between conserving whales and dolphins and returning to becoming a whalers' club," Lieberman said.

For further information:
Joanna Benn, Communications Manager
WWF Global Species Programme
Tel: +39 348 726 7313
(C)WWF - the environmental conservation organisation

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