St Kitts and Nevis - 16 June 2006: Campaigners today breathed a sigh of relief as pro-whaling nations led by Japan failed to gain a majority on the opening day of the International Whaling Commission's (IWC) annual meeting, in St Kitts. Greenpeace announced their plans to return to the Southern Ocean this year to oppose Japan's continued 'scientific hunt' which will target 935 minke whales and ten endangered fin whales,warning that there is no time for complacency. (1)
During the first vote on the opening day of the Conference, Japan called for any references to a discussion on the conservation of small cetaceans (dolphins and porpoises) to be struck from the agenda. The motion was defeated 32 votes to 30. The second and deciding vote on Japan's call for secret ballots was defeated by 33 votes to 30. This means the whalers have stumbled in their bid to take over the IWC. (2)
For years Japan has been trying to overturn the 1986 IWC moratorium on commercial whaling. Through an aggressive vote buying strategy, offeringdevelopment assistance in exchange for pro-whaling votes, Japan has come very close to achieving a pro-whaling majority. Having failed to win the majority at last years meeting, one of the Japanese delegation made their intentions clear: "The reversal of history, the turning point is soon to come."
Sarah Duthie, Greenpeace Senior Oceans Campaigner said "Whaling history may not have been rewritten this year but it was to close for comfort. The anti-whaling countries must see this as a wake-up call and add action to their rhetoric about protecting whales. This year Greenpeace will once again challenge the whalers on the high seas, the question is what are the anti-whaling countries prepared to do?"
With a simple majority at the Commission, Japan would not have been able to overturn the commercial moratorium on whaling but it could have wreaked havoc with the IWC's protection measures. It could have instigated secret ballots, forced a resolution endorsing its "scientific" whaling programme, and called for on the Convention for the Trade in endangered Species (CITES) to lift its ban on the trade in minke whales.
This year all of the private companies behind Japan's so-called scientific whaling pulled out claiming that there is no profit to be made from whaling and that too few Japanese people are interested in eating whale meat. (3) In response, the Fisheries Agency of Japan has set up its own company to try and sell the 'chopped and boxed' by-products of its science to schools, hospitals and restaurants.
"The whale hunt is bankrupt on all counts: politically, financially, morally, ecologically and scientifically. For twenty years the Government of Japan has kept the whaling fleet on life support under the guise of science, it's time to face the fact that the whaling industry is dead in the water. It is time to stop the hunt," concluded Duthie.
- The return to the Southern Ocean will bring full circle the most ambitious ship expedition Greenpeace has ever undertaken. Defending Our Oceans is a 15-month expedition to highlight the range of threats to the oceans and calling for a network of marine reserves covering 40% of the world's oceans. It began in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary in November 2005 and has since exposed pirate fishing in West Africa, shown the benefits of 'no take' zones in the whale watching waters of the Azores and is currently exposing the critical state of tuna stocks in the Mediterranean.
Over the 73 days from November 20th 2005, 57 crew from over 20 countries onboard the Greenpeace ships MY Esperanza and Arctic Sunrise travelled 14,500 nautical miles, spent 28 days in contact with the whaling fleet, including 12 days when no whales where killed. Sadly, and despite saving a great many whales by blocking the harpooners shot, they witnessed the brutal death of at least 123 minke whales.
- Japan's Alternate Commissioner to the IWC, Akira Nakamae, Deputy Director of the Fisheries Agency of Japan. IWC 57, Ulsan, South Korea, 2005.
- Along with other environmental organisations like the Environmental Investigations Agency and the Humane Society of the US, Greenpeace launched a consumer campaign last year calling on Nissui, a one-third shareholder in Kyodo Senpaku, which owns and operates the whaling fleet to use its influence to end whaling. Emails were also sent to two of the world's largest seafood companies with links to the whaling business: Gortons in the US, wholly owned by Nissui, and Sealord in New Zealand, 50 percent owned by Nissui. Globally, Greenpeace Ocean Defenders sent a total of 100,000 emails to Nissui-related companies. In addition, Nissui lost seafood supply contracts in Argentina after activists placed stickers denouncing whaling on Nissui products in supermarkets and sent more than 20,000 emails. Before thefleet had even finished the hunt, Nissui and the other companies behind the whaling fleet announced they were pulling out.