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Whaling commission faces crunch meeting

作者:眭婕裔    发布时间:2019-03-06 10:19:00    

By Emma Young The 53rd meeting of the International Whaling Commission, which begins on Monday, 23 July, is set to be a critical meeting for the future of the world’s whales and for the future of the organisation itself, observers claim. Since 1986, there has been a moratorium on commercial hunting of whales. But Japan, Iceland and Norway (which continues to kill and sell whales), are now pressing for a return to large-scale commercial whaling. The three countries and their allies are not likely to achieve the three-quarter majority needed to overturn the moratorium at this IWC meeting, say anti-whaling activists. But they may well secure enough votes for a simple majority. This would allow them to push through changes to IWC voting procedures that would make an overturning of the ban next year much more likely. If the moratorium is thrown out, many anti-whaling groups say, the credibility of the 55-year-old IWC will go with it. The build-up to this year’s meeting has seen a series of controversial announcements. In an interview with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation, Masayuki Komatsu, the head of the international division at Japan’s Fisheries Agency, admitted promising aid to small countries in exchange for joining the IWC and voting with Japan. In the same interview, he called minke whales “the cockroaches of the oceans”. The Japanese fisheries ministry later rejected Komatsu’s comments. Anti-whaling groups, meanwhile, have issued reports highlighting the critically endangered status of the blue whale – but scientists differ on the causes of the whale’s decline. Environmentalists have also pointed out just how difficult obtaining accurate estimates of whale populations can be. One of the chief purposes of the annual IWC meeting is to consider whale stocks and to set quotas for the types of whaling that are permitted: very limited “aboriginal” whaling by native populations of certain countries such as Russia, and hunting for the purposes of “scientific research”. But most scientists agree that population estimates for most whale species could be far wide of the true mark. The IWC currently has 43 members. Any country in the world that formally agrees to the commission’s 1946 convention is free to join. Greenpeace claims that six east Caribbean states have been recruited to the IWC by Japan. Dominica’s environment minister, Atherton Martin, resigned in July 2000, claiming that Japan had threatened to withdraw aid unless Dominica voted against a proposed South Pacific Whale Sanctuary. The proposal was rejected – and looks set to be rejected again at the 2001 meeting. Panama and Morocco have joined the IWC in 2001 and are expected to also vote in line with Japan. Although the pro-whalers are unlikely to achieve a three quarters majority at this year’s meeting, many commentators think they will achieve a simple majority. This would be enough to allow a secret ballot on the moratorium. Anti-whaling groups fear that vacillating nations would then be more willing to take the pro-whalers’ side. The three nations leading the pro-whaling movement have made their position clear: Norway lodged an objection to the adoption of the moratorium of commercial whaling and so is not bound by it. Norwegian whalers now kill almost 500 minke whales every year. Norway resumed exports of whale meat in January 2001, and is thought to want to extend the hunt so it can supply more meat to the lucrative Japanese market. Japan legally kills about 400 minke, 50 Bryde’s and 10 sperm whales every year in the name of “scientific research”. In the ABC interview this month, Komatsu said that, since Japan has no military muscle, it has to use other means to get support for its whaling programme. At least six Caribbean nations have previously been named as recipients of financial aid in return for votes. Japan has also claimed that lifting the moratorium on commercial whaling would help protect whales. Iceland left the IWC in 1992, but rejoined in June 2001. Thorsteinn Palsson, the Icelandic ambassador in London, has said that Iceland plans to resume commercial whaling perhaps as early as next year. He told the BBC: “We know the IWC moratorium is in force but we don’t consider ourselves bound by it, because we rejoined the Commission in June. So we believe we can be IWC members and yet go back to commercial whaling”. WWF’s Stuart Chapman says:

 

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