Kiribati joins the International Whaling Commission

Monday, 17 January, 2005
Sydney Australia
The Pacific Island Country of Kiribati has joined the International Whaling Commission (IWC).  This move by Kiribati comes at a very significant time for the future of whales. The IWC is in the middle of negotiating a deal that could lead to the resumption of commercial whaling this year. The number of countries for and against is finely balanced-one new country joining on either side could mean the difference between no whaling and a full-blown commercial whale hunt. 
“Sadly, there is the real threat that, for the first time in the IWC’s recent history, the number of pro-whaling countries will outnumber those opposed to whaling. Given the delicacy of the current position, Kiribati’s vote could tip the scales either way. We implore Kiribati to vote for whale conservation, not whale exploitation,” said IFAW Asia Pacific Marine Campaigner, Darren Kindleysides.

Kiribati is the second Pacific Island Country to have joined the IWC in the last year. Their neighbour, Tuvalu, joined in June 2004, just in time to attend the last annual meeting of the IWC held in Italy last July. At that meeting, Tuvalu voted with the pro-whaling nations and against the conservation of the world’s whales (see voting record below). Tuvalu became the first South Pacific country to vote against setting up a South Pacific Whale Sanctuary.

The Government of Kiribati has made commitments to whale conservation through various Pacific regional agreements including supporting the establishment of a South Pacific Whale Sanctuary, recognising the Pacific is one of the world’s most critical areas for whale conservation. Many throughout the region will be watching Kiribati’s voting at the next IWC meeting in Korea in June 2005 carefully. It is hoped that Kiribati will continue its support for the protection of the region’s whales and to respect the will of the majority of Pacific Island Countries.

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Brian Sharp, Emergency Relief Officer, Stranding Coordinator
Manager, Marine Mammal Rescue and Research
Dr. Maria (Masha) N. Vorontsova, Senior Advisor to the IFAW Marine Conservation
Senior Advisor to the IFAW Marine Conservation Program
Matt Collis, Director, International Policy
Director, International Policy
Patrick Ramage, Program Director, Whales
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