Back to the dark ages – June18th 2006

IWC St. Kitts Day Three

Back to the Dark Ages

Something akin to pandemonium broke out at the St. Kitts meeting of the International Whaling Commission today, with pro-whaling delegates cheering and applauding even before Japan’s first victory was announced. The late afternoon vote was on the “St. Kitts Declaration”, a document from the host nation originally described to Commissioners as a consensus- building device. It was first produced yesterday (after a long delay) with another slightly revised version coming out this morning. The Declaration is very clearly a proposal to take the IWC back to its 1946 beginnings, i.e. to solely concentrate its efforts on commercial whaling. Though the document was voted on as if it was a Resolution, it was not. Rather, it was a statement of opinion by 30 nations, 26 of which Japan has brought into the IWC under its votes-for-aid scheme. Be that as it may, the 33-32-1 result was truly a breakthrough for Japan’s delegation, which had been defeated on every previous vote in the meeting. One can only imagine their relief, perhaps especially because two members of Japan’s Diet had come to St. Kitts with the delegation.

Denmark cast the crucial stone, voting with Japan to the consternation of other European nations. China, normally a staunch Japanese ally, abstained; and Senegal, in the room at last, predictably voted with Japan.
Brazil protested the result of the vote, maintaining that Iceland is not a legitimate member of the IWC, having acceded to the Convention with an illegal reservation to the Moratorium. New Zealand agreed, disassociating itself from the vote. Numerous other countries followed suit or recorded protests, but the damage to the pro-whale side was done. The St. Kitts Declaration has no weight in law, but Japan for the first time in decades can claim a moral victory. (“Moral” may not be the best word to use here).

Previously in today’s meeting, Japan and its allies had caused Brazil, Argentina and South Africa to withdraw their proposal to establish a South Atlantic Sanctuary. But following that, Japan suffered yet another defeat. This was over its attempt to remove the Antarctic Whale Sanctuary. The Antarctic Sanctuary is one of the crown jewels of the pro-whale camp. It is also a thorn in Japan’s side in that most of Japan’s commerce-disguised-as-science whale killing occurs within it. Removing the Antarctic Sanctuary requires a 3⁄4 majority vote, so it was unlikely that Japan would succeed. As things turned out, Japan fell significantly short of even a simple majority, losing 28-33-4. Unhelpful to Japan were abstentions by St. Vincent & the Grenadines and Tuvalu. Cote d’Ivoire was absent from the room. The next vote was on the St. Kitts Declaration, and this time Japan made sure all of its ducks were in line.

The other main agenda item on Day 3 was Japan’s report on its JARPA II “scientific whaling” programme. Japan made two lengthy PowerPoint presentations that extolled the virtues of killing whales for science. Not be outdone, Australia presented a slide show extolling the virtues of non-lethal whale science. Though there was no vote, the debate was lively. It was noted that Japan has over 5,000 tons of whale meat stored in freezers that it can’t sell.

Slipping into the day’s mix was a presentation by France on a new whale sanctuary it has created in its Caribbean territories. The slide show announcement drew applause from numerous delegations and was roundly panned by several former colonies

We will have to wait to see what fallout there may be from today’s events. Turning point or not, having tasted victory once, Japan may well have go at something else tomorrow. Perhaps it will flex its muscles on meddlesome NGOs?

The St. Kitts and Nevis Declaration was presented by:
St. Kitts and Nevis, Antigua & Barbuda, Benin, Cambodia, Cameroon, Cote d’Ivoire, Dominica, Gabon, Gambia, Grenada, Republic of Guinea, Iceland, Japan, Kiribati, Mali, Republic of the Marshall Islands, Mauritania, Mongolia, Morocco, Nauru, Nicaragua, Norway, Republic of Pulau, Russian Federation, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Solomon Islands, Suriname, Togo, Tuvalu.

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