Whalergate – Secret Bush administration plan to legitimise Japanese whaling

Monday, January 26, 2009
(US - 26 January 2009) - According to US media reports, outgoing Bush Administration appointees engaged in intense, closed-door negotiations in the final days of the Bush Administration to undo the global moratorium on commercial whaling and extend unprecedented authorisation to the government of Japan to kill whales off its coastline and in international waters.

The Washington paper of “Watergate” fame obtained secret documents and broke the story of the whaling plan yesterday (January 25).

Patrick Ramage, Global Whale Programme Director for the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) said: “Apparently, the last lousy idea of the Bush Administration was to legitimise commercial whaling in the 21st Century. It's unbelievable, and fundamentally un-American. We should be encouraging Japan, Iceland and Norway to end whaling, not cooking up deals to help it continue.”

Long-time Bush Administration appointee Dr William Hogarth currently serves as US Commissioner and Chairman of the 83-nation International Whaling Commission (IWC). In early 2008, Dr Hogarth and the Japanese Vice-Chair initiated a series of closed-door meetings and secret discussions designed to forge a compromise with Japan, one of only three IWC member nations still whaling. A "small working group" of IWC member countries met behind closed doors in St Pete Beach, Florida in September and again in Cambridge, England in early December 2008. Dr Hogarth reconvened a drafting group of countries this weekend in Hawaii to fine-tune the compromise deal.

Text drafted by US, Japanese and other commissioners engaged in the IWC “Small Working Group” process apparently contemplates legitimising Japan's ongoing scientific whaling in international waters - including an internationally recognised whale sanctuary - as well as extending long-sought authorisation to Japan to kill protected whales in its coastal waters.

Robbie Marsland, UK Director of IFAW, said: “Since the formation of the Small Working Group IFAW has pushed for these meetings to be transparent. With whales facing more threats today than at any other time, we urge members to ensure that the ban on commercial whaling is strengthened, not weakened.”

Since the global ban on commercial whaling in 1986, Japan has claimed its whaling operations are conducted for scientific research purposes. Japan has killed more than 15,000 whales since the whaling ban and has threatened to begin killing humpback whales if the IWC does not bow to its wishes and approve commercial whaling.

IFAW opposes whaling because it is cruel and unnecessary; there is no humane way to kill a whale. IFAW supports responsible whale watching as a humane and sustainable alternative to the cruelty of whaling.

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