Japan exploits loophole to continue whaling in Antarctic Sanctuary | WWF
Japan exploits loophole to continue whaling in Antarctic Sanctuary

Posted on 17 November 2000

As the Japanese whaling fleet sets sail for its 14th 'scientific' Antarctic whale hunt, WWF, the conservation organization, condemned Japan's blatant disregard for international opinion, and called on the government to stop backing an industry that has hunted over 500 large whales this year alone.
Gland, Switzerland - As the Japanese whaling fleet sets sail for its 14th 'scientific' Antarctic whale hunt, WWF, the conservation organization, condemned Japan's blatant disregard for international opinion, and called on the government to stop backing an industry that has hunted over 500 large whales this year alone.

The Japanese fleet took 439 Minke whales in the Antarctic from December 1999 to April 2000, and then 43 Bryde's, 40 Minke and 5 Sperm whales in the North Pacific in July and August. It is now setting out to catch another 440 Minkes in the Southern Ocean whale Sanctuary, in defiance of strong international protests from many countries, including "certification" under the US Pelly Amendment. The majority of members of the International Whaling Commmission (IWC), are opposed to Japan's actions. The IWC, as the decision-making body of the 1946 Whaling Convention, is the only international organization with the authority to regulate whaling worldwide. While not technically in breach of international agreements, Japan is exploiting the provision of the Whaling Convention that was intended to allow for small-scale, genuine scientific research, and whaling in the Antarctic whale Sanctuary.

"It is a question of recognising that what happens to the great whales is a matter for the international community to decide, not just Japan," said Cassandra Phillips, WWF's Coordinator for Whales and the Antarctic. "The whole Southern Ocean around Antarctica has been declared an IWC whale Sanctuary. We will never be able to ensure a secure future for whales if some nations continue to exploit legal loopholes in the Whaling Convention for their own commercial purposes."

Even before this year's expansion of its 'scientific whaling' to include two more species of whales in its quota, Japan had been increasing its annual catch of whales. When its 'scientific whaling' started in 1988, its self-awarded catch was 273 Minke whales. This year the total catch planned is 600 including Bryde's and Sperm whales, with the whale meat being sold in Japanese markets and restaurants. At the last IWC meeting, in July 2000, Japan and its allies, including several Caribbean Island states blocked the creation of a new international sanctuary for whales in the South Pacific.

Japan's declared objective is to get enough votes in the IWC to reverse the global moratorium on whale hunting, and reopen the international trade in whale products. To this end they have targeted developing countries, in particular in the Caribbean, with offers of development aid in return for votes in the IWC. Already Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, as well as Guinea (West Africa) and Solomon Islands vote with Japan - and the offensive is continuing. Only last week, on November 8th the first ever ministerial-level meeting between Japan and Caribbean countries took place in Tokyo. According to the Japanese government, the meeting was meant to enhance bilateral partnerships and increase Japan's economic cooperation with the region.

"If this Japanese offensive continues unchecked, it could lead to the resumption of large scale commercial whaling within a few years", Cassandra Phillips added. "It is time for Japan to stop putting its efforts into undermining the IWC, and instead to focus on working with the international community to ensure a safe future for the world's whales."

For further information:

Cassandra Phillips, WWF International, tel/fax: +44 1386 882055, e-mail: cphillips@wwfint.org

Olivier van Bogaert, WWF International, tel: + 41 22 364 9554, e-mail: ovanbogaert@wwfint.org

NOTES TO EDITORS

1) Japan has been openly operating a 'vote buying' strategy for several years. Japan now directly controls the votes of six East Caribbean states, Guinea, and the Solomon Islands. These countries, together with Norway, support the resumption of whaling and invariably vote with Japan.

2) The total number of voting states in the IWC is 35.

3) To resume whaling authorised by the IWC Japan would require a majority vote of the IWC, but administrative decisions are made by simple majority. Once Japan achieves this majority it can use administrative votes to change the character of the IWC in order to allow it to overturn the moratorium more easily and to obtain larger catch limits once it does.