IWC blocks return of commercial whaling
Japan on brink of pullout
FLORIANAPOLIS, Brazil, Sept 15, (AFP): Japan’s determined bid to return to commercial whale hunting was rejected by the International Whaling Commission (IWC) Friday in a tense vote that left the 72-year old organization at a crossroads.
Japan’s Vice-Minister for Fisheries Masaaki Taniai said he “regretted” the vote’s outcome, and threatened Tokyo’s withdrawal from the 89-member body if progress could not be made towards a return to commercial whaling.
“If scientific evidence and diversity is not respected, if commercial whaling is completely denied... Japan will be pressed to undertake a fundamental reassessment of its position as a member of the IWC,” he said.
Japan’s IWC Commissioner Joji Morishita declined to comment when asked if this would be Japan’s last appearance at the IWC, an organization which he has chaired for the past two years. His term ended Friday.
Minutes after the meeting he told AFP that differences with anti-whaling nations were “very clear” and Japan would now plan it’s “next steps”. Anti-whaling nations led by Australia, the European Union and the United States, defeated Japan’s “Way Forward” proposal in a 41 to 27 vote.
Japan had sought consensus for its plan but had been forced to push the proposal to a vote “to demonstrate the resounding voices of support” for a return to sustainable whaling for profit, said Taniai.
Pacific and Caribbean island nations as well as Nicaragua and several African countries, including Morocco, Kenya and Tanzania, voted with Japan, as did Asian nations Laos and Cambodia. Korea abstained.
The Russian Federation, which like several states allows IWC-monitored aboriginal subsistence whaling, said it abstained because it did not want to exacerbate an already “deep split within the commission”.
The body’s identity crisis was clear in a week of often robust exchanges between pro- and anti-whaling nations.
Morishita told AFP a decision lay ahead over whether whaling could be managed in the future by “a different organization or a combination of different organizations?”
The large Japanese delegation here would “assess the result of this meeting very carefully back in Japan,” said Morishita.
The IWC was set up in 1946 to conserve and manage the world’s whale and cetacean population. It introduced a moratorium on commercial whaling in 1986 after some species had been fished to near extinction.
Japan insists whale stocks have sufficiently recovered to allow commercial hunting to resume.
Tokyo currently observes the moratorium but exploits a loophole to kill hundreds of whales every year for “scientific purposes” as well as to sell the meat.
Norway and Iceland ignore the moratorium and are key supporters of Japan’s bid to resume commercial whaling.
A Japanese withdrawal would have far-reaching consequences for the organization, given support from a growing number of developing states in the IWC.