Nations stand strong against commercial whaling at international meeting

Thursday, May 31, 2007
Anchorage, Alaska
This year’s meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) was characterized by strong opposition to commercial whaling by a majority of the 77 nations that met to debate the controversial issue of whale hunting. Conservation groups, including IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare – www.ifaw.org) attended the meeting and were pleased with the strong support shown for whale conservation.
Key anti-whaling actions included the adoption of a resolution condemning Japanese whaling, and a report by the IWC Scientific Committee that hotly criticized Japan’s so-called “scientific” whaling program.
 
IFAW Global Whale Program Manager Patrick Ramage, said from the meeting: “We are encouraged by the strengthened conservation majority at this year’s IWC meeting. We are winning the vote count, but the whalers are winning the body count.  The Government of Japan intends to kill more than 1,400 whales before next year’s meeting, including 50 humpback whales. Strong action is needed inside and outside the IWC to encourage Japan, Iceland and Norway to stop expanding commercial whaling.”
 
IWC delegates also adopted a resolution that called for the U.N. backed Convention on the International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES) to respect the long standing relationship between the IWC and CITES on the issue of the international trade of whale products. CITES is set to meet in The Hague beginning 3 June 2007, and pro-whaling Japan  has tabled a proposal in the government’s campaign to reopen the international commercial trade of whales.
 
IFAW whale biologist, Vassili Papastavrou, said of the resolution, “This week, the IWC has reminded CITES of the moratorium on commercial whaling and asked it to support the IWC’s management decisions. This is important to maintain the integrity of both fora. IFAW is calling on CITES delegates at next week’s meeting to oppose Japan’s proposal.”
 
Pro-whaling nations did not react well to their lack of simple majority voting power at the meeting. On two votes, pro-whaling nations formed a bloc and chose not to participate in the voting process.
 
IFAW Japan representative, Naoko Funahashi, said, “Japan attempted to hid its losses behind the cloak of non-participation by it and its pro-whaling partners. It does not serve anyone well, least of all the IWC itself, for nations not to participate in the process solely because the possible outcome would not serve them.”
 
Though the conservation majority continued to hold the ground at this year’s meeting, the whales continue to lose ground outside of the forum.
 
IFAW Regional Director for Asia Pacific, Mick McIntryre said: “Despite good efforts to get the 50 humpback whales off of Japan’s scientific whaling program, nothing emerged at this meeting that will stop them from being killed. The humpback whales of the South Pacific are severely depleted, and the hunt of these whales could have a catastrophic effect on these fragile populations.”
 
While a resolution proposing the establishment of a South Atlantic marine sanctuary did not garner the three-quarter majority vote required, it did manage to earn support from 60% of voting members. Next year’s IWC meeting is scheduled to take place in Chile, where this sanctuary proposal will top the list of actions sought by Latin American nations.
 
IFAW Regional Director for Latin America, Beatriz Bugeda, said, “IFAW was very pleased this year to see the increase in IWC members from Latin America, and to see their clear opposition to whaling. The region will continue to develop an increasingly powerful role on the issue of whale conservation.”
 
To learn more about IFAW’s global campaign to protect whales, and how you can join this important campaign, visit www.stopwhaling.org today.

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