Cetacean Society International

Whales Alive!

Vol. VIII No. 2 April 1999

We Need Your Support To Bring CSI To The IWC

by William Rossiter, CSI President

The International Whaling Commission will meet this May in Grenada. CSI has had an influential and respected role as a Non-Governmental Observer at the International Whaling Commission meetings for two decades. The IWC has always been a major priority and expense for us because we do make a difference. So do you: without your support CSI could not be there. CSI will be represented by Board Member Katie Gray, of Virginia. Katie is well prepared to represent your concerns at this international forum, but we must get her there. CSI's Scientific Advisor Dr. Carole Carlson will attend as a member of the U.S. Scientific Committee. Board Members Kate O'Connell and Nancy Azzam will also attend - Nancy, for Windstar Foundation, as the official NGO representative on the U.S. delegation, and Kate as Observer for another organization. This is just part of the team as CSI works in concert with many other organizations to achieve our goals of protecting whales. Only Katie needs our financial support.

CSI's expenses are for more than the general meeting itself. They include preliminary and follow-up meetings in Washington and elsewhere. Katie must be in Grenada from May 20th though 29th. CSI must also help NGOs from critical countries who simply can't afford to attend without assistance. We consider this an opportunity, privilege, and investment. One example is helping José Palazzo, our Representative in Brazil, get to Grenada as an NGO representative for the International Wildlife Coalition. José will be extraordinarily valuable to this year's meeting because of his working relationship with the Brazilian officials and the South American Sanctuary proposal.

Please consider even a small but special donation to CSI to support our IWC efforts. We know that the whaling threats may sound strident and similar every year and you may wonder if it will ever end. It will certainly end if we give up. Look through all the issues to the reasons why you care about whales, and why you joined CSI. We won't quit, and we hope your support won't either. The whales deserve your support and the following should show why.

Humpback Calf Killed: On March 6th, a humpback whale calf and its mother were harpooned and killed just off the tourist beaches in Mustique in the Caribbean Islands of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. The killers were young men in a speed boat who harpooned the baby first to bring the mother whale within reach, assisted by others on a ferry. The IWC defines Aboriginal Subsistence Whaling as "whaling for purposes of local aboriginal consumption carried out by or on behalf of aboriginal, indigenous or native peoples who share a strong community, familial, social and cultural ties relating to a continuing traditional dependence on whaling and on the use of whales". Stretching that definition, St. Vincent, a member of the IWC since 1981, has had a yearly IWC quota for two humpback whales to satisfy traditional "aboriginal subsistence needs", apparently on the misunderstanding that whaling would end in the islands when the only remaining whaler retired. Last year, however, another mother humpback and her calf were killed by a young relative of the old whaler in a new whaling boat. Under IWC rules, that kill may be considered as an infraction at this year's meeting, and this year's kill may be discussed as well. The International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling, which established the IWC, states that it is forbidden to kill suckling calves or female whales accompanied by a calf. St. Vincent's quota is up for renewal at this year's IWC meeting, and is expected to seek an increase in the quota to three or possibly four whales. Since 1986, St. Vincent has received millions of dollars from Japan in return for voting favors at the IWC. Japan seeks a worldwide resumption of commercial whaling, openly orchestrating an entourage of Caribbean nations that spend their votes as instructed. St. Vincent, which has a history of Yankee-style whaling, recently met with officials from Japan and other Caribbean islands to discuss a commercial whaling program for the Caribbean region.

Iceland: In the aftermath of the Althingi's (Parliament's) resolution in early March to whale again "at the earliest opportunity", Prime Minister Davíd Oddsson stated in late March that it was a mistake for Iceland not to protest the ban on whaling and the subsequent decision to leave the IWC. At the time, Norway declined to follow Iceland, and the two nations are in very different situations today. The rehabilitation of Keiko and the exploding whale watching industry have changed some public perceptions about whaling, and clearly linked income from international tourism to any whaling policy. Most significantly, Oddsson also said that before whaling is to resume the interested parties must make their case clearly, showing a greater interest would not be sacrificed for small gains. Should a few minke whales be killed for local consumption, or should Iceland start large scale whaling aimed at exporting the products? With the former the gains are likely to be extremely small when weighed against the risks the resumption of whaling poses to the tourism and fishing industries. Oddsson emphasized that if Icelanders intend to export whale meat, like they used to do quite profitably especially to Japan, the market for the product must be secured first. Currently the Japanese are not buying. The matter is now in the hands of the government and if the Prime Minister's words are an indication, it seem highly unlikely Icelanders will be whaling any time soon, which will be a relief to Finland and many other concerned nations. Iceland may also join CITES.

Japan Killing Sanctuary Whales, Again: Japan has missed half of its scientific whaling season due to a fire in November on the fleet's factory ship, the Nisshin Maru. Now repaired and whaling, the Japanese fleet still intends to kill the self-allotted 440 minke whale quota. An article in January's New Scientist Magazine says that this "hurry-up" whaling may discredit Japanese arguments used to justify the program. Japan's excuse for taking so many whales has always been that, to fully understand the ecology of minke whales in Antarctic waters, it needs to catch a similar number of whales from the same subgroups of the population each year. The Japanese could easily kill 440 whales before the season ends April 21st, but only if the whalers abandon the official plan to sample from each population subgroup. It seems unlikely that the whalers will care where the whales are caught, or that the IWC will be able to stop the dishonorable travesty. The Southern Ocean Sanctuary was created in 1994 by the IWC, but Japan's "research" whaling is exempt because of a scientific research loophole. Everyone knows that the "research" is actually a commercial hunt. After a few samples are taken, minke meat ends up on the tables of Japan's sushi bars and restaurants.

Also, in anticipation of the annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission in Grenada next month, Japan has prepared a motion to abolish the Southern Ocean Sanctuary.

Real Sanctuaries And The Irish Proposal: The "Irish Proposal", by Mr. Canny of Ireland, Chairman of IWC, calls for a global high seas sanctuary for whales and the resumption of limited commercial whaling under IWC auspices, and is on the Agenda of the 51st annual meeting of the IWC in Grenada. In the opinion of CSI and many other NGOs it is a detrimental compromise with some whaling nations. A "no-whaling" sanctuary on the high seas would remove the moratorium and allow commercial whaling in coastal waters, and recognition of cultural whaling. It would create a new category of commercial small type coastal whaling within nations' Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ), 88,047,000 square kilometers or 40% of the world's oceans, the equivalent of the Atlantic Ocean. Most whales spend much of their lives in this zone. Many coastal communities in developing nations could take advantage of the Proposal, and Japan has long argued for several of its coastal whaling communities. In a possibly related note the shipyard in the city of Khabarovsk, Russian Far East, has started construction of 60 small boats, suitable both for hunting whales and fishing, for hunters from the Chukchi Autonomous Area.

The Proposal lacks provisions for any enforcement of the whaling, including key custom/body sites, or provisions for scientific and/or veterinarian observers to document and report the killing process. The Irish Proposal does not distinguish between species' population sizes, vulnerabilities, or prior exploitation. It relies on the whaling industry to enforce and control itself. Finland was one of the first to make a commitment to the 1986 moratorium on commercial whaling practices and, after a recent meeting with NGOs who argued against the Proposal, may withdraw support for the Irish Proposal. Other countries may also, and the issue is certain to be a focal point of the meeting. In response to increasing whaling pressures at the IWC there will be an Australian proposal for a "Global Whale Sanctuary", there may be a proposal by New Zealand for a "South Pacific Whale Sanctuary" to protect whale breeding grounds, and the Brazilian "South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary" reported elsewhere in this Whales Alive!. Unfortunately these proposals will be played with like cards as Commissioners maneuver for consensus. CSI's role is to help them maneuver in the right direction.

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