Pro-Whaling Countries Poised to Take Over Commission

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Armed with a majority on the IWC, pro-whaling nations could weaken whale-conservation measures, revoke environmental groups' observer status on the commission, and make votes secret, conservationists say.

Shady Deals?

Antiwhaling nations and environmental groups say Japan has used promises of financial aid to entice small, relatively poor African, Caribbean, and Pacific countries to side with it on the IWC.

Japan denies the charge.

"We have never done that," Jouji Morishita, the director of international negotiations on whaling for the Japanese Fisheries Agency, told the BBC's Today radio program.

But according to the Associated Press, since 1998 Japan has given St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, and St. Kitts and Nevis the equivalent of more than a hundred million U.S. dollars in fishing aid.

Most of these countries have backed Japan on whaling.

"There is no reason these countries would vote for whaling," Lieberman said. "They have no interest in whaling. Many depend on whale [watching] tourism, if anything."

On Thursday WWF released a poll showing that the citizens of ten Pacific and Caribbean nations oppose the killing of whales, despite the fact that their governments consistently vote with Japan at IWC meetings.

"In some [nations], it was overwhelming," Lieberman said.

"In Antigua and Barbuda 79 percent of those polled—and it was a very scientific poll—are opposed to all commercial whaling."

The question asked was as follows: "The representative of your country has in past meetings of the IWC voted for a return to commercial whaling. Do you think your country should have voted this way?"

Anthony Liverpool, Antigua and Barbuda's whaling commissioner, told BBC News that the poll question was "unfair."

"Antigua and Barbuda does not have a history or tradition or culture of whaling. The majority of our people are not very knowledgeable about whaling," he said.

"The government's position at the IWC is a principled position on the importance of using our marine resources in a manner and at a rate that will enable that resource to last for generations."

Scientific Whaling

Japan currently exploits a loophole in the whaling ban, killing whales for what it calls scientific research. Last season the Japanese took 850 minke whales from Antarctic waters and 10 fin whales, according to Reuters.

Iceland also conducts scientific whaling. Norway, the only country to openly hunt whales commercially, has set a quota for this year of 1,052 minke whales.

Whale meat regularly shows up in Japanese supermarkets, on school menus, and in family-style restaurant chains, Reuters reported.

But it's not being eaten, according to a report released Tuesday by the Tokyo-based Dolphin and Whale Action Network.

The report shows the price of whale meat is falling in Japan, because the national appetite for the meat has declined, and there is now a surplus.

The finding contradicts the claim that whale meat is popular in Japan.

"Many people think the Japanese like whale meat and therefore continue whaling. That's not true," Junko Sakuma, the report's author, said at a news conference Tuesday.

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