Latin American Organizations Gather in Chile to Strenghten Whale Protection

Tuesday, October 16, 2007
Santiago, Chile
For the first time, a significant number of regional civil organizations specializing in cetacean research and conservation have gathered in Chile to strengthen regional policies for the conservation and non lethal use of whale populations in the Latin American region.
More than twenty representatives of fifteen non government organizations (NGOs) from ten Latin American countries are meeting in Santiago de Chile from October 15th to the 18th in order to coordinate strategies with a view toward the 60th Annual Meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC), which will be held in the capital of our country in June of 2008.

The upcoming meeting of the IWC in Chile is a historic event, as it will be the third time the IWC, the only agency with worldwide authority over the issue of whales, will meet in Latin America since it was founded in 1946, and the second time, after 23 years, that the annual meeting will be held in South America.

During the NGO gathering, representatives of Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Mexico, Panama, Uruguay and Venezuela will broach issues of regional interest such as the creation of Whale Sanctuaries, responsible development of whale watching and strengthening cetacean research programs on a regional level, among others.

The large scale meeting, coordinated by the Center for Cetacean Conservation (CCC of Chile), the Whale Conservation Institute (ICB of Argentina) and the Cethus Foundation (Argentina), and sponsored by the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), includes a presentation before the Environment and National Resources Committee of the Chilean Senate, to show the importance of consolidating a regional policy for the conservation and non lethal use of cetaceans in Latin America as an alternative of sustainable development that would benefit over 500 communities worldwide socially, environmentally and economically, generating annual income in excess of US$ 1,200 million.

For Beatriz Bugeda, director of the International Fund for Animal Welfare in Latin America (IFAW) "One of the goals of this gathering of Latin American Non Government Organizations is to show our firm support for the work being done by the Buenos Aires Group in favor of whale conservation within the framework of the IWC. The bloc of Latin American countries will play a strategic role in the upcoming IWC meeting in Chile, and these countries’ votes will be crucial.”

In turn, Diego Taboada, director of the Whale Conservation Institute of Argentina said, “through this meeting, we expect to strengthen the commitment of the civil organizations in Latin America to seek solutions to the environmental threats faced by cetaceans and, especially, to the permanent pressure exerted by the “whaling” countries to resume worldwide commercial exploitation.” Taboada added, “We hope that, through the contribution of the scientific community to this international organization and, together with government authorities, information about the status of the whale populations in the region will increase and be strengthened.”

Cecilia Gasparrou dof the Cethus Foundation of Argentina remarked on the importance of this meeting and, especially, “that Latin American countries are making their own interests and agenda felt within the IWC.” Gasparrou also noted the convenience of the region adopting a common position at other international forums dealing with cetacean conservation, such as the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species (CITES).

The meeting with the Senate presented an opportunity to request its support for the creation of a Chilean Whale Sanctuary before the IWC meeting is held in 2008, which would prohibit commercial and scientific whaling once and for all in the territorial ocean and exclusive economic zone of the Republic of Chile.

In this context, Bárbara Galletti, president of the Center for Cetacean Conservation said, “Chile belongs to the bloc of Latin American conservationist countries that are working actively within the IWC to consolidate the sovereign right to use the whales of the southern hemisphere through non lethal methodologies. However, it is paradoxical that, under Chilean legislation, cetacean species are only protected by an administrative fishing regulation that prohibits their capture through the year 2025. We believe that the NGO meeting in Santiago is a valuable opportunity to progress toward the creation of a Chilean Whale Sanctuary that will fully reflect the foreign policy promoted by the country internationally with regard to the conservation and non lethal use of cetaceans and the interests of its citizens”.

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