Fingers crossed - it's IWC 59!

Posted by jossc — 24 May 2007 at 10:38am - Comments

IWC 59: how the voting's going

It's time for us whale lovers to hold our breath and cross our fingers yet again as we watch developments at the 59th meeting of the International Whaling Commission, now underway in Anchorage, Alaska.

For the past few years the IWC, charged by the United Nations with protecting whales, has been the focus of serious lobbying by some whaling nations to allow a resumption of commercial whaling - suspended since 1986 following a dramatic decline in the number of great whales worldwide.

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At last year's IWC on the Caribbean island of St Kitts they came uncomfortably close to succeeding. And although in the end the pro-whalers, led by Japan and Iceland, won only one of a series of votes (by the narrowest of margins, 33 to 32), this slim victory allowed them to issue the 'St Kitts Declaration' calling for a return to commercial whaling.

So the stage is set in Alaska for a monumental ding-dong over the future of whaling. In the intervening months the government of Japan's been stepping up its efforts to persuade other countries to join the IWC and support its position. It's most recent convert is Laos in South East Asia. Landlocked and with no tradition of whaling or eating whale meat, cynics might conclude that Laos's support was bought with the $1 million of Japanese development aid announced shortly after the deal was reached.

What's a bit weird about all this is that there is no real appetite or demand for whale meat in Japan. Polls consistently show that two-thirds of Japanese people are opposed to high seas whaling, and frozen whale meat from years of so-called "research" expeditions is still stacked up in warehouses, unsold. The push to resume commercial whaling appears to comes solely from a few unaccountable men inside the Fisheries Agency of Japan, spending millions in taxes on an industry that is not wanted, needed or profitable.

The situation in Iceland is just as strange, where whale watching is now a far more lucrative industry than whaling ever was. Earlier this year the Icelandic government issued licences allowing endangered fin whales to killed for export, but no one wanted to buy the meat and blubber, which ended up being dumped in landfill sites!

How can we stop this senseless killing? Around the world we've been organising the Big Blue March. Taking place on 27th May, the aim is to form a sea of people (all wearing blue shirts or dresses) opposed to whaling. Sadly, there are no events of this kind planned in the UK, but you can support the campaign by writing to the key governments in the whaling debate and making sure your voice is heard.

Follow developments at the IWC in our weblog.

About Joss

Bass player and backing vox in the four piece beat combo that is the UK Greenpeace Web Experience. In my 6 years here I've worked on almost every campaign and been fascinated by them all to varying degrees. Just now I'm working on Peace and Oceans - which means getting rid of our Trident nuclear weapons system and creating large marine reserves so that marine life can get some protection from overfishing.

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