Stalemate on ending
ban at whale meeting
Thursday, July 26, 2001
By Jeremy Lovell, Reuters
LONDON — The International Whaling Commission (IWC) passed a
motion on Wednesday that criticized Norway for hunting Minke
whales and for resuming exports of whale products but made no
progress on ending a ban on commercial hunting.
"The working group has not been able to resolve all the
issues," Dutch delegation head Fer Von der Assen told the
IWC's annual meeting.
As in the past, the key outstanding issues remain inspections and
observers to monitor whale catch when the temporary total ban
introduced in 1985 to protect the 12 species of great whale is
finally lifted. There is also deep disagreement on the creation of
a central DNA registry for all whales that are killed.
An important component in lifting the ban is agreement on the
Revised Management Scheme to set and police catch quotas. But this
has been effectively beached since 1997.
Norway and Japan, where whale meat is a delicacy, have
consistently opposed the ban. Norway in 1993 resumed hunting of
Minke whales, which it says are in plentiful supply.
"The commission calls upon the government of Norway to
reconsider ... and to halt immediately all whaling activities
under its jurisdiction," said a resolution passed by 21 votes
to 15 with one abstention. It also called on the Norwegian
government not to issue any export permits for whale products.
'WITHIN OUR RIGHTS'
Norwegian delegation head Odd Gunnar Skagested angrily accused his
hypocrisy and of overstepping their rights.
"We reject the notion that we should be criticized for doing
things that are thoroughly within our rights," he said.
"We are surprised at anyone bringing a resolution of this
Japan hunts Minke whales under the guise of scientific research,
selling the meat to shops and to restaurants.
The meeting rejected by 20 votes to 15 with two abstentions a
Japanese bid — described by the United States as a backdoor way
of lifting the ban — to allow four hard-hit local subsistence
communities to catch 50 Minke whales a year.
Britain, the United States, Australia, and New Zealand are fervent
in their defense of the ban, with at least one British minister on
record as saying it should never be lifted.
A three-quarters majority of voting members is necessary to change
the rules of the 55-year-old organization, whose only purpose is
the protection of great whales.
Britain's Ministry of Agriculture Fisheries and Food says none of
the great whales —
from the gargantuan 150-ton blue whale to the relatively
diminutive 15-ton Minke — is now in immediate danger of
extinction, thanks to the ban.
But the blue and its 90-ton northern right cousin are classified
as endangered, while the bowhead, southern right, sei, fin, and
humpback whales are considered vulnerable. Most were hunted to the
edge of extinction in the 19th and early 20th centuries or food,
fat, and oil.
Britain, which ceased commercial whaling in 1963 and fully
endorses the ban, last month banned Norwegian whale research ships
from its 200-nautical-mile territorial waters in protest at Oslo's
resumption of whale product exports to Japan. During Wednesday's
meeting Britain came under attack from the main whaling nations
for the decision.
"The United Kingdom has chosen to put its own political
considerations above the aims of the International Whaling
Commission," Norway's Skagested said.
No one spoke up in defense of the British decision.
Copyright 2001, Reuters
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