Monday, April 17, 2006

Imminent whaling backlash?

In a cover story today The Independent (UK), warns that Japan is just about to regain a majority at the International Whaling Commission (IWC).

In the last few years, the so-called like-minded (pro-whales) countries in the IWC have been less committed and less active, and the pro-whaling group led by Japan has been growing in size and influence.

Does the publication of this story by The Independent signal the beginning of the reversal of this trend? Will it be a wake-up call for conservation?

As The Independent recalls, more than anything this is a political battle.

Some believe that there is no real need to panic, because IWC catch quotas require a three quarters majority to be adopted, and if Japan gets a majority at the IWC meeting in June, it will only be a simple majority.

Wrong. Even with only a simple majority, the pro-whaling group can do a lot of damage.

Namely, with a simple majority they can:

* Change the rules of procedure to establish secret ballots for voting;

* Promote a resolution endorsing Japan's and Norway's "scientific whaling" programmes;

* Seek to abolish the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary established in 1994;

* Dismantle the IWC Conservation Committee set up a few years ago to look at the impact on whale populations of issues such as climate change, pollution, underwater noise, or by-catch from fishing operations;

* Promote a Revised Management Procedure for whaling that would open the way for a full blown resumption of commercial whaling, thereby ending the moratorium on commercial whaling.

At last year's IWC annual meeting a year ago, Japan 's Alternate Commissioner was reported as saying: "The reversal of history, the turning point, is soon to come".

We must take back the whales.

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