New Zealand to ask tiny Palau to support South Pacific whale sanctuary

Friday, June 04, 2004
By Associated Press

WELLINGTON, New Zealand New Zealand wants the tiny Pacific state of Palau to end its opposition to the creation of a whale sanctuary in the South Pacific Ocean.

Foreign Minister Phil Goff said Thursday during a visit to the Micronesian ministate that he was trying to persuade it to back the sanctuary or abstain from a vote on it.

New Zealand and Australia next month will propose to the International Whaling Commission (IWC) for the fifth time that a South Pacific whale sanctuary be created.

The proposal has so far failed to win the 75 percent of votes needed to pass at annual IWC meetings.

Environmentalists claim pro-whaling Japan has bought the votes of small nations with aid funds to thwart the sanctuary plan.

Palau, a western central Pacific nation of 20,000, is one of several small states to have voted against the proposal.

The sanctuary would protect the breeding grounds of Southern Hemisphere whale species such as blue, fin, sei, humpback, southern right, pygmy right, minke, and sperm whales.

Whale feeding grounds in the Southern Ocean around Antarctica already have been declared a sanctuary.

Japan, one of the world's largest consumers of whale meat, says it is gathering data to build a case that whale numbers have recovered enough to sustain limited commercial hunts.

"Palau has always been supportive of Japan's stance on both whaling and fishing," the New Zealand Press Association reported Goff saying as he arrived in the Palau capital, Koror. "Palau has voted in favor of whaling in the past and we will ask Palau to abstain from the coming vote on southern Pacific whaling," he said.

Japan was still "very active" in signing up new countries to support its stance at the IWC, Goff said.

The whaling commission, which banned commercial whaling in 1986, is due to hold its annual meeting next month in Sorrento, Italy.

Goff is heading a New Zealand delegation on a weeklong visit to the Pacific states of Palau, Marshall Islands, and Solomon Islands.

Source: Associated Press