Heal Our Planet Earth

Anti-whaling Greece may tip scale at IWC + commentary by Anthony Marr

The Sydney Morning Herald

THE annual battle over the lifting of a moratorium on whaling has swung emphatically in favour of anti-whaling nations with the confirmation of Greece as the latest recruit to the International Whaling Commission.

A clear majority is again within grasp of opponents to whaling at the meeting of the commission in Alaska on May 28, when it will review whale conservation and management.

Pro-whaling nations won an important symbolic victory at last year's meeting, when, by a single vote, they passed a resolution saying the moratorium on commercial whaling was no longer necessary.

But a diplomatic offensive led by Britain to recruit more anti-whaling nations paid dividends in Europe, while environmentalists succeeded in Latin America.

Greece's membership was formally notified yesterday. Cyprus, Croatia and Slovenia, the other new European recruits, also oppose whaling.

So far Japan, the leading nation in favour of whaling, has failed to produce anything like the number of new pro-whaling members seen in previous years.

Earlier this year the British Government formally appealed to non-member countries to sign up. The Prime Minister, Tony Blair, said in a brochure it was a global responsibility of nations to protect whales for future generations.

The environmental group Sea Shepherd encouraged Ecuador to join. This capitalised on links between the two in the Galapagos Islands, where Sea Shepherd helps with fisheries patrols for the Ecuadorians.

The dormant members Peru and Costa Rica are also reported to be attending the meeting in Anchorage, after paying arrears in subscriptions that would prevent them from voting.

On the pro-whaling side, only Laos is reported to have agreed to join the organisation at Japan's request. News agencies reported from Tokyo that Japanese officials were unsure whether Laos would complete the formalities in time for the meeting. The International Fund for Animal Welfare said that while it welcomed the revival of an anti-whaling majority, these nations would be unable to use their numbers to enforce a halt to Japan's scientific whaling.

The fund's Asia-Pacific director, Mick McIntyre, said a voting majority would prevent the whalers from shifting the agenda towards approving whaling.

"It also means a three-quarters majority needed to overturn the moratorium on commercial whaling is even further out of reach," Mr McIntyre said. "But it doesn't do anything to stop Japan killing our humpbacks."

Under the commission's scientific research loophole, Japanese whalers plan to begin harpooning in the Antarctic humpbacks that migrate along the Australian coast in summer.

Commentary by Anthony Marr:

The annual foreign aid volume of the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) was in the order of $100 million in the late 1990s. The Western Canada Wilderness Committee (WCWC), of which I was a campaigner 1995-1999, obtained funding for our Tigers Forever campaign in the amount of about CDN$100,000 a year for 4 years (1997-2000), which involved us forwarding 60% of it to a chosen bonafide Indian tiger conservation organization as Canada's foreign aid to India in Bengal tiger conservation.

It is of course implicitly understood that India's official policy be pro-tiger-conservation, including tiger-hunting. If India uses tiger-hunting as a means of tiger conservation, Canada would not have released the tiger conservation foreign aid. Even if India tangentially threatens the tiger by their logging or mining activities, Canada would have made an issue of them, to make sure that it would not impact negatively on tiger habitat.

And of course, tiger conservation is not the only issue in regards to Canadian foreign aid to India, which also includes dam building, forestry and mining technology, and nuclear energy. In fact, as CIDA's name implies, the emphasis is on development, not conservation. Even so, if India's policy is to allow tiger hunting and/or log or mine tiger habitat, the funds going to these and other related industries would be stalled.

What if India wants to vote in favor of reopening commercial whaling on a global scale? Would Canada have enough grounds to withhold the aid to other India industries? Probably not, because Canada is not even a member of the International Whaling Commission (IWC).

But under similar circumstances, the United States can, but at this point, it doesn't. The U.S. is the leading anti-whaling nation at the IWC, and the America foreign aid program, like almost everything else, is about ten times as massive as the Canadian one.

Pro-whaling argument will have it that if the U.S. makes anti-whaling a condition for foreign aid, it would be akin to the Japanese going around the world buying pro-whaling IWC votes. My reply is this:

First, the U.S. has been the largest foreign aid donor since foreign aid began, covering almost every Third World country with a hungry mouth to feed. All I'm talking about here is to attach a new condition to a long-existing program. Whereas Japan would likely not give a yen to certain countries without considering the IWC-vote factor.

And second and last: If Japan openly admits that what they are doing with the small pro-whaling Caribbean, African and Asian nations, and land-locked ones like Mongolia, is vote-buying, i.e. international bribing, then we could question the US on a similar score. If Japan keeps on denying it, then don't even pose the question to the US. It is Japan's call.

And the outcome of this battle will be borne out in the IWC voting arena.

Anthony Marr, founder Heal Our Planet Earth
(HOPE - www.HOPE-CARE.org)
Deer Options Enterprise (DOE - www.DeerOptions.com)
Western Canada Anti-Sealing Coalition (WCASC - website pending)

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