Bat­tle lines hold firm at global whaling huddle

Kuwait Times - - HEALTH & SCIENCE -

POR­TOROZ: Pro- and anti-whaling na­tions dug in their heels at a key meet­ing yes­ter­day where Ja­pan sought to lift a 30-yearold mora­to­rium on com­mer­cial hunts while oth­ers pushed for a sanc­tu­ary in the At­lantic. Meet­ing host Slove­nia urged com­pro­mise for the ma­jes­tic marine mam­mals’ sake, but member states of the In­ter­na­tional Whaling Com­mis­sion (IWC) cleaved al­most im­me­di­ately into his­toric fac­tions.

“The mora­to­rium on com­mer­cial whaling should and could be lifted on a stockby-stock ba­sis based on sound sci­en­tific ev­i­dence,” Ja­pan in­sisted in a writ­ten sub­mis­sion. The com­mis­sion’s own ad­vi­sory sci­en­tific com­mit­tee “has con­firmed that cer­tain stocks of whale species are re­cov­ered”, which im­plies the mora­to­rium is out­dated, it ar­gued. Ja­pan’s yearly whale hunt, which it says is car­ried out in the name of sci­ence, is a re­cur­ring and deeply di­vi­sive is­sue at the 88-member IWC’s bi­en­nial gath­er­ings.

The or­ga­ni­za­tion’s 66th meet­ing, sched­uled to run un­til Fri­day, opened in the Adri­atic re­sort of Por­toroz yes­ter­day. Sci­en­tific hunts are ex­empt un­der the IWC’s 1986 mora­to­rium, but crit­ics in­sist Ja­pan abuses the pro­vi­sion for com­mer­cial catches. The meat ends up on su­per­mar­ket shelves and in restau­rants, in line with an IWC stip­u­la­tion that whales taken for sci­ence must be eaten. “It is a loop­hole that the IWC never an­tic­i­pated be­ing rou­tinely ex­ploited by a coun­try in or­der to kill whales for profit, but that is pre­cisely what Ja­pan has been do­ing since 1987 to kill more than 15,000 whales,” said Kitty Block of con­ser­va­tion group Hu­mane So­ci­ety In­ter­na­tional. The In­ter­na­tional Court of Jus­tice ruled in 2014 that Ja­pan was abus­ing the sci­en­tific ex­emp­tion. Tokyo can­celled its 2014/15 hunt, only to re­sume it the fol­low­ing year, killing an es­ti­mated 300-plus an­i­mals. New Zealand and Aus­tralia are ask­ing the IWC to in­tro­duce strin­gent re­views for sci­en­tific whaling projects. “It is clear that Ja­pan’s stated re­search ob­jec­tives can be met us­ing non-lethal means and we urge Ja­pan to cease its lethal prac­tices,” reads a doc­u­ment sub­mit­ted by New Zealand.

The Nether­lands, on be­half of the Euro­pean Union, “strongly sup­port main­tain­ing the mora­to­rium on com­mer­cial whaling and in­vite coun­tries that con­tinue com­mer­cial or other whaling ac­tiv­i­ties to con­sider ceas­ing them.” Be­sides Ja­pan and com­mu­ni­ties which re­ceived abo­rig­i­nal whaling li­cences from the IWC, Nor­way and Ice­land con­duct com­mer­cial hunts, hav­ing sub­mit­ted ob­jec­tions to the mora­to­rium.

Give back their en­vi­ron­ment

Ja­pan, for its part, op­poses the cre­ation of a South At­lantic whale sanc­tu­ary, a pro­posal of Ar­gentina, Brazil, Gabon, South Africa and Uruguay which car­ries the back­ing of the Euro­pean Union and oth­ers. Tokyo’s com­mis­sioner to the IWC, Joji Mor­ishita, high­lighted the in­tractabil­ity of the di­vide. “One side... is sup­port­ing the to­tal pro­tec­tion of whales un­der any cir­cum­stances, no kill, no one whale should be killed,” he told jour­nal­ists at the meet­ing.

The other, “like Ja­pan, is sup­port­ing sus­tain­able uti­liza­tion of marine liv­ing re­sources in­clud­ing whales,” he said. “These po­si­tions are so... fun­da­men­tally dif­fer­ent and that is caus­ing the dif­fi­cul­ties or stale­mate or dead­lock of this or­ga­ni­za­tion. Un­less we ad­dress this is­sue in some man­ner we will just be re­peat­ing the same thing, meet­ing af­ter meet­ing.” Ja­pan, Nor­way and Ice­land are tra­di­tion­ally in their own cor­ner at the bi­en­nial IWC meet­ings, which seek to bal­ance is­sues of na­tional sovereignty, sub­sis­tence rights and cul­ture, with con­ser­va­tion of Earth’s nat­u­ral bounty.

This year’s meet­ing marks the 70th an­niver­sary of the com­mis­sion’s found­ing, and the 30th birth­day of the mora­to­rium es­ti­mated to have pre­vented the killing of tens-even hun­dreds-of thou­sands of whales. Con­ser­va­tion­ists say whales still face a mul­ti­tude of per­ils, from hunters and ship strikes to get­ting snared in fish­ing gear and pol­lu­tion. “(...) It is in the in­ter­ests of all of us to give back to the cetaceans their liv­ing en­vi­ron­ment,” Slovene En­vi­ron­ment Min­is­ter Irena Ma­j­cen urged del­e­gates. “This is some­thing that should unite us.” — AFP

POR­TOROZ: Pro­tes­tors hold up a plac­ard read­ing ‘It’s time to take whale meat off the menu’ as they demon­strate in front of the venue for the 66th In­ter­na­tional Whaling Com­mis­sion (IWC) meet­ing. — AFP

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