Latin America steps forward to protect cetaceans

Saturday, December 2, 2006
Buenos Aires, Argentina
Government representatives of twelve Latin American countries met in Buenos Aires, Argentina in order to support the continuation of the moratorium on whaling and reassert the right to non-lethal use of cetaceans. The countries committed to promoting a regional agreement in favor of the non-lethal use and conservation of cetaceans.
On Friday, December 1, 2006, the Latin American Meeting on Cetacean Conservation was held in the city of Buenos Aires. It was hosted by the Republic of Argentina through Ambassador Eduardo Iglesias, the Argentinean Commissioner to the International Whaling Commission (IWC). This was a continuation of the process begun in November 2005 with the Buenos Aires Declaration, where thirteen countries in Latin America and the Southern Hemisphere, joined by Spain, condemned “scientific whaling”, supported a continued ban and reasserted the right to the non-lethal use and management of whales, especially through whale watching and non- invasive research.
 
The Commissioners to the IWC from Argentina, Brazil, Mexico and Peru met with representatives of the commissioners of Chile, Panama and Guatemala. The governments of Ecuador and Dominican Republic and diplomatic observers from the embassies of Colombia, Uruguay and Venezuela also participated. All of the participants agreed that non-lethal use of cetaceans is a permanent commitment of the Latin American region.
 
The meeting, held a few weeks after the Japanese “scientific” whaling fleet sailed with the intent of hunting almost 1,000 minke and fin whales, clearly shows the genuine concern of Latin America. The participants stressed the importance of keeping the whale hunting moratorium in effect and approving the Southern Ocean and South Pacific Whale Sanctuaries to ensure areas exempt from whaling for the non-lethal management of whales. The document produced at the meeting also expresses its opposition to commercial whaling and lethal scientific research, and states that special permits for hunting should be ended.
 
Whale watching tourism was a primary focus of the meeting. All of the governments present agreed that whale watching should be supported and encouraged in all countries of Latin America, since its responsible implementation promotes economic growth, social and cultural development in local communities. It also offers educational and scientific benefits, as well as contributing to the conservation of the cetacean populations.
 
“Without a doubt, this meeting reaffirms the decision of Latin American countries to defend the sovereign right of nations to their non-lethal use. The world must know that we say no to whale hunting in our seas,” said Diego Taboada, president of the Whale Conservation Institute, which was invited to attend the closing of the meeting.
 
Also present was Rodrigo García Píngaro, Director of the Organization for Cetacean Conservation of Uruguay, which has made great efforts toward making Uruguay an active member of the IWC. García said, “There is no doubt that the benefits of responsibly managed whale watching tourism are much greater than those of whale hunting. This industry is a thing of the past, today society wants to enjoy the presence of cetaceans in the world’s oceans”.
 
The most important result of this meeting was the opportunity to initiate discussions toward the signing of a Regional Latin American Agreement, which will be a very important step for whale conservation in the region, according to Jimena Belgrano of the Cethus Foundation.
 
Speaking during the press conference, Ambassador Eduardo Iglesias said, “This Agreement will help reinforce the position of the nine Latin American countries that are members of the International Whaling Commission and represent a third of the conservationist nations on the planet.”
 
The consolidation of a regional Latin American bloc is the key to being able to counteract the efforts of the few nations that today want to renew the commercial hunting of whales. This meeting represents a great step toward a common position at the next annual meeting of the IWC, to be held in Alaska next May.
 
It was noted that during this meeting, the importance of Organizations from Civil Society that work together with the Commissioners of Latin American was recognized. This is fundamental, since, as the Commissioners stated during the press conference, NGOs are the pulse of civil society. Marcela Romero of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), noted: “The presence of representatives of the Whale Conservation Institute and the Cethus Foundation of Argentina, the Organization for Cetacean Conservation of Uruguay and the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) of Brazil at the presentation of the conclusions of the Meet shows appreciation and recognition for our hard work in non government organizations toward protecting the whales of the world.”

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