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  Yahoo News 19 Jun 06
Pro-whaling nations hail vote on ban
By Adam Raney, Associated Press Writer

Yahoo News 19 Jun 06
'Historic' triumph against hunting ban for whaling nations

FRIGATE BAY, St Kitts and Nevis (AFP) - Pro-whaling nations struck a historic blow against the moratorium on commercial hunting, winning their first vote in favor of whaling for two decades at global talks here.

The Japan-led pro-whaling block was triumphant after forcing a resolution which branded the ban "no longer necessary" through the International Whaling Commission (IWC) annual meeting with a razor-thin one-vote margin.

Though the non-binding resolution does not mean the 20 year-old moratorium will be overturned, environmentalists called the vote "tragic" and their worst-ever defeat in the decades-long anti-whaling campaign.

"This is the most serious defeat the conservation cause has ever suffered at the IWC," New Zealand's Environment Minister Chris Clark told AFP. "It has been a significant diplomatic victory for Japan."

Japan and its allies on the commission were triumphant, savouring the first-ever fruit of Tokyo's long diplomatic campaign to lift the ban on commercial whaling.

"This is an historic victory," said Glenn Inwood, spokesman for the Japanese delegation. "This is the first serious setback the global moratorium has ever had. It is only a matter of time before it is gone completely."

Environmental campaigners reeled from the blow, some appearing close to tears. "This is the most significant setback since (the moratorium) came into force," said Kitty Block, a lawyer with Humane Society International.

The vote represented a major victory for pro-whaling nations led by Japan, who want to turn the IWC away from pure conservation and focus on a return to managing whale stocks for hunting.

The moratorium, enforced since 1986, still stands because it needs a 75 percent super-majority to be overturned. The resolution Sunday, proposed by commission hosts St Kitts and Nevis, passed by 33 to 32 votes with one abstention.

The resolution declared: "The moratorium, which was clearly intended as a temporary measure, is no longer necessary." Japan abides by the moratorium, but conducts some "research" whaling through what opponents say is a loophole in the IWC charter, as does Iceland. Norway ignores the moratorium all together. Around 2,000 whales are taken a year by the three nations.

Japan hopes to use the resolution, known as the St Kitts and Nevis declaration, as a political weapon, wielding it to argue that more states than not on the 70-nation IWC body believed the commercial whaling ban should be lifted.

Japan has complained that anti-whaling states have deadlocked the commission, which was set up in 1946 to prevent whales from passing into extinction through over hunting.

Having a majority on the IWC would allow Tokyo to control the commission's agenda for the first time since a moratorium was introduced and, environmentalists fear, let Tokyo frustrate conservation efforts.

In an earlier controversy to rattle the IWC Sunday, Caribbean nations accused rich Western states of hypocrisy and colonial-style discrimination as they rejected attempts to force them into the anti-whaling camp.

Antigua and Barbuda said anti-whaling states like Britain, Australia and New Zealand were guilty of "intellectual hypocrisy" by turning an organisation set up in 1946 to manage whale stocks for hunting into an anti-whaling roadblock.

St Kitts and Nevis representative Cedric Liburd referred to the colonial history of the West Indies to counter arguments of whaling opponents who say small states have signed up on the pro-whaling side just to win aid bonanzas from Japan.

"Years ago, we had one vote," he said, referring to former colonial master Britain. "Now we have 15."

Grenada's commissioner Clarice Charles raised the spectre of slavery in explaining why, even though her country had little whaling tradition, she did not believe countries could be told how to use their own maritime resources.

"Years ago, we were told what to eat. Slaves were given salty fish to eat when the seas were abundant with fish." "We have the right to use our maritime resources for the survival and livelihood of our people," she said.

Yahoo News 19 Jun 06
Pro-whaling nations hail vote on ban
By Adam Raney, Associated Press Writer

FRIGATE BAY, St. Kitts - A slim majority of nations on the International Whaling Commission voted Sunday in support of a resumption of commercial whaling, but pro-whaling nations still lack the numbers needed to overturn a 20-year-old ban.

The resolution, approved 33-32 with one abstention, declares that the moratorium on commercial whaling was meant to be temporary and is no longer needed.

But to reverse the ban imposed in 1986, another vote supported by 75 percent of the 70 IWC members would be required.

The IWC meeting on the Caribbean island of St. Kitts was thrown into chaos after the vote on the resolution authored by six Caribbean nations and backed by the major pro-whaling nations Norway, Iceland, Japan and Russia. But it was not immediately clear what impact it would have.

"This shows the power balance is shifting, but it really shows that both sides need to sit down, compromise and stop yelling from the trenches," said Rune Frovik, of pro-whaling group High North Alliance. Glenn Inwood, a spokesman for the Japanese delegation, said the vote was a "historic moment." "It's the first serious setback for those against whaling in years. It's only a matter of time before the commercial ban is overturned," he predicted.

Delegates from small Caribbean and African countries said the resolution the first of its kind since the ban was needed to force the IWC to take up its original mandate of managing whale hunts not banning them altogether.

The backers have been pushing to lift the ban, saying it was a way to protect fish stocks from whales and give their small islands food security.

"We're dealing with an ecosystem where whales are on top of the food chain," said Daven Joseph, an IWC delegate from St. Kitts and Nevis. "That's like blaming woodpeckers for deforestation," countered Vassili Papastavrou, a whale biologist for the International Fund for Animal Welfare. "The real issue is overfishing, not whales."

The resolution was drafted by St. Kitts, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, Grenada, Dominica and Antigua.

Chris Carter, New Zealand's Conservation Minister, said though the vote was significant, it marked a hollow victory. "It will ultimately lead to the defeat of Japan's pro-whaling ambitions," he said, noting it would show the world what is going on within the IWC.

"Japan had a long, expensive campaign to achieve a whaling majority, which they got today," he added, referring to allegations that Japan has bought votes by giving fishing aid to developing countries.

Japan and other pro-whaling countries had lost four previous and more significant pro-whaling votes at the meeting, thwarting their predicted takeover of the organization. But with each vote, conservationists have become more worried that pro-whaling nations will eventually control the commission.

"This is going to wake people up and cause a big backlash, but it's also pretty bad, too," said Javier Figueroa, of the Argentinian delegation, which opposes commercial whaling.

Both Japan and Iceland kill whales for scientific research which critics call a sham and sell the carcasses. Norway ignores the moratorium and openly conducts commercial whaling.

Environmental groups have accused developing nations of voting with Japan in return for money for fisheries projects which Japan and those countries have repeatedly denied.

Caribbean tourism officials have said they are concerned that their countries' support of whaling might lead travelers to boycott the region. "Such threats are tantamount to economic terrorism," said Joanne Massiah, Food Production and Marine Resources Minister for the Caribbean nation of Antigua and Barbuda.

The IWC conference was set to continue on Monday.

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