International Whaling Commission

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The International Whaling Commission (IWC) was set up by the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling on December 2, 1946 with a headquarters in Cambridge, England. The role of the inter-governmental commission is to periodically review and revise the Schedule to the Convention, controlling the conduct of whaling by setting the protection of certain species; designating areas as whale sanctuaries; setting limits on the numbers and size of catches; prescribing open and closed seasons and areas for whaling; controlling aboriginal subsistence whaling; and other measures.

Each signatory state of the convention is represented by a Commissioner at the IWC. There are currently 45 members. The IWC has three main committees - Scientific, Technical, and Finance and Administration. Meetings are held annually in May or June and are generally extremely divisive - demonstrating a complete split on all major issues between the pro-whaling nations and their supporters and the anti-whaling nations.

The IWC introduced an open ended moratorium on all commercial whaling in 1986. However the Convention grants special permits to allow whale killing for scientific purposes. Since 1986 only Norway, Iceland and especially Japan have been issued with permits, with Japan being the sole permit holder since 1995 as part of their 16-year programme. Norway lodged a protest to the zero catch limits in 1992 and has refused to abide by them.

In 2003 IWC members adopted the "Berlin Initiative" which called for the setting up a conservation committee to monitor the survival prospects of all cetacean species rather than just the large whale species as it had previously done. Japan says that the Commission was expanding beyond the remit granted it by the 1946 and threatened to withhold part of its membership fee; saying that it could not support the new committee.

In 2002 in contrast the votes went in the direction of the pro-whaling lobby, when the Commission rejected proposals to specify "whale sanctuaries" - areas where no whale could be hunted for any purpose - in the parts of the South Pacific and South Atlantic.

Current (2005) members are: Antigua and Barbuda, Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Belize, Benin, Brazil, Cameroon, Chile, People's Republic of China, Costa Rica, Cte d'Ivoire, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominica, Finland, France, Gabon, The Gambia, Germany, Grenada, Republic of Guinea, Hungary, Iceland, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kenya, Republic of Korea, Kiribati, Luxembourg, Mali, Mauritania, Mexico, Monaco, Mongolia, Morocco, Nauru, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Oman, Palau, Panama, Peru, Portugal, Russian Federation, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, San Marino, Senegal, Slovak Republic, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Togo, Tuvalu, UK, USA.

Allegations of "vote-buying"

Each year the IWC meets to discuss arising from the convention. Member countries may propose a resolution for the Commission to adopt. It is usual for Japan to propose a motion to allow it a commercial hunt in the Pacific Ocean. Over the moratorium years the balance of support on this issue has changed from a majority in favour of keeping the ban to a 50-50 split. IWC rules say that such a change could only be brought about with a 75% majority in favour.

Campaign groups and some governments claim that the Japanese Fisheries Agency has carried out a programme of "vote-buying" - i.e. offering aid to poorer countries in return for them joining the IWC and supporting Japanese positions on whaling.

Specifically, Japan has given $320m in overseas aid to Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, Guinea, Morocco, Panama, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St Kitts and Nevis and the Solomon Islands. Each of these countries has also sided with Japan in each IWC vote since 2001. Greenpeace says that the two events are correlated. Although the Caribbean nations admit the rules may possibly hemm-in their fishing activities as well.

When these allegations were aired at the London IWC meeting in 2001 by New Zealand delegate to the commission, Sandra Lee, the Japanese delegate comprehensively denied the allegations. Masayuki Komatsu said "Japan gives foreign aid to more than 150 nations around the world and that includes strong anti-whaling nations such as Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Mexico and others who receive far more aid than the Caribbean nations [..] If Japan was buying votes, you would see 150 nations in the IWC and as a consequence the unnecessary moratorium would have been lifted years ago."

Komatsu also said that Caribbean countries naturally supported pro-whaling resolutions as they are whaling countries themselves (mostly of smaller cetaceans) and that the New Zealand commissioner was inventing "fairy stories".

In response to this rebuttal, anti-whaling groups point to several statements that apparently conflict with the official Japanese position. In an interview reported in The Observer newspaper in May 2001, Atherton Martin, Dominica's former Environment and Fisheries Minister said "They [Japan] make it clear, that if you don't vote for them, they will have to reconsider the aid. They use money crudely to buy influence." Martin resigned because of the issue. Greenpeace also quotes Tongan parliamentarian Samiu K Vaipulu as saying that Japan had linked whale votes to aid.

Indeed in a famous interview with Australian ABC television in July 2001, in which he described Minke Whales as "cockroaches of the sea", Japanese Fisheries Agency official Maseyuku Komatsu said that offering aid was "a major tool" in obtaining backing for a return to commercial whaling. The previous week Lester Bird, prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda, had said "Quite frankly I make no bones about it...if we are able to support the Japanese, and the quid pro quo is that they are going to give us some assistance, I am not going to be a hypocrite; that is part of why we do so".

Japan notes that major anti-whaling nations such as Australia and New Zealand also donate aid to poor countries on the IWC and thus it could easily accuse the anti-whaling lobby of the same tactics.

June 2005 meeting

The meeting in Ulsan, South Korea from 20-24 June 2005 had several particularly divisive matters to discuss and votes to take. Notable among them was:

  • the proposal by Japan to have secret ballot voting, which was interpreted as a measure by Japan to allow its protégé member states to vote in a way that was less transparent, and this was defeated (Vote held on 20 June 2005)
  • the proposal by Japan to re-institute commercial whaling, which would have required a three quarters majority to carry the vote, was defeated 29 votes to 23 against (Vote held on 21 June 2005)
  • the proposal by Japan to remove a decade old Southern Ocean whale sanctuary, which was defeated 30 votes against 25 (Vote held on 22 June 2005)

Responding to Japan's stated intentions of increasing their scientific whaling quota, Australia also introduced a non-binding resolution that calls on Japan to halt the expansion of its scientific whaling program, which was supported by 30 votes to 25 (Vote held on 22 June 2005). Opponents of scientific whaling claim it is commercial whaling under a different name. New Zealand's Minister of Conservation, Chris Carter, said, "We find (the) whole use of the phrase 'scientific whaling' an outrage." [1] (http://www.stuff.co.nz/stuff/0,2106,3320863a10,00.html) Japan, however, claims that their research activities contribute to scientific knowledge of the management of whales. In the face of these setbacks, Japan has not ruled out withdrawing from the IWC, but this would require approval by the Japanese parliament. [2] (http://www.abc.net.au/news/newsitems/200506/s1398498.htm)

In Australia, the famous white or albino humpback whale Migaloo was swimming up the east coast in the week before the IWC meeting, and was sighted and photographs published in many newspapers and on television, motivating public opinion strongly behind the Australian Government's stand at the IWC meeting against whaling, led by Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Senator Ian Campbell. [3] (http://www.stuff.co.nz/stuff/0,2106,3320863a10,00.html)


News

External links

ja:国際捕鯨委員会 nl:Internationale Walvisvaartcommissie

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