Pro­posal to re­in­state com­mer­cial whal­ing de­feated

The Guardian (Charlottetown) - - WORLD -

Mem­bers of the In­ter­na­tional Whal­ing Com­mis­sion de­feated a Ja­panese pro­posal to re­in­state com­mer­cial whal­ing at a meet­ing in Brazil on Fri­day.

The com­mis­sion sus­pended com­mer­cial whal­ing in the 1980s, but Ja­pan ar­gued that stocks have re­cov­ered suf­fi­ciently for the ban to be lifted and that no good rea­son ex­ists to main­tain a mea­sure that was meant to be tem­po­rary. It has re­peat­edly tried to lift the ban.

Other coun­tries ar­gued that many whale pop­u­la­tions are still vul­ner­a­ble and that whal­ing is in­creas­ingly seen as un­ac­cept­able.

Ja­pan’s pro­posal was de­feated Fri­day by a vote of 41-27 in Florianopolis, Brazil.

“This is not a de­bate about hu­man rights nor is it a de­bate about global food se­cu­rity,” Nick Gales, Aus­tralia’s com­mis­sioner to the IWC, said dur­ing a de­bate on Thurs­day. “It is a business propo­si­tion against which many par­ties hold le­git­i­mate en­vi­ron­men­tal and wel­fare con­cerns.”

Af­ter the vote, Ja­pan sug­gested that it would re­con­sider its mem­ber­ship in the in­ter­na­tional body.

It has ar­gued that the com­mis­sion has be­come “in­tol­er­ant” and re­mains dead­locked on many is­sues be­cause of the di­vide be­tween coun­tries that prize con­ser­va­tion and those that push for the sus­tain­able use of whales.

Ja­pan had pro­posed changes to the way the body op­er­ates, in­clud­ing a pro­vi­sion which would al­low mea­sures to be adopted by a sim­ple, rather than su­per, ma­jor­ity.

“If sci­en­tific ev­i­dence and di­ver­sity are not re­spected, if com­mer­cial whal­ing based on science is com­pletely de­nied, and if there is no pos­si­bil­ity for the dif­fer­ent po­si­tions and views to co­ex­ist with mu­tual un­der­stand­ing and respect, then Ja­pan will be pressed to un­der­take a fun­da­men­tal re­assess­ment of its po­si­tion as a mem­ber of the IWC,” Masaaki Ta­niai, Ja­pan’s state min­is­ter of agri­cul­ture, forestry and fish­eries, said af­ter the vote Fri­day.

Pa­trick Ra­m­age, di­rec­tor of marine con­ser­va­tion at the In­ter­na­tional Fund for An­i­mal Wel­fare, noted that Ja­pan has fre­quently threat­ened to pull out of the body.

The mea­sure’s “adop­tion would have been a big step back­wards for the IWC, re­turn­ing us to the by­gone days of open com­mer­cial whal­ing instead of be­com­ing a mod­ern con­ser­va­tion body,” Ra­m­age said in a state­ment. “The real way for­ward for whales is con­ser­va­tion and re­spon­si­ble whale watch­ing, not cruel and un­nec­es­sary whale killing.”

The Ja­panese have hunted whales for cen­turies and see it as a cheaper al­ter­na­tive source of pro­tein. They cur­rently hunt un­der a com­mis­sion pro­vi­sion that al­lows killing whales for re­search pur­poses.

The num­ber of whales Ja­pan kills each year is now capped at 333, about a third of the num­ber it used to kill be­fore the In­ter­na­tional Court of Jus­tice ruled in 2014 that its pro­gram wasn’t sci­en­tific in na­ture.

Some, how­ever, say the re­search pro­gram re­mains a cover for com­mer­cial whal­ing be­cause the whale meat is sold for food.

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