A D E L A I D E, Australia, July 5, 2000 -- Japan and Norwaymoved a step closer today to lifting a 1986 ban oncommercial whaling, after many of their foes on the issue agreedto press ahead with drafting new whaling rules.
“It’s another step forward toward the resumption ofcommercial whaling,” Campaign Whale spokesman Andy Ottawaysaid.
However, Japan faced a fresh wave of criticism after itconfirmed it planned to add two new whale species to itsresearch hunting program, raising the heckles ofconservationists and those who fear that the whale population isdwindling too quickly.
Japan Caught 500 Whales in 1999
“We are appalled at the proposal,” said UK FisheriesMinister Elliot Morley after 19 member nations supported hisresolution to the International Whaling Commissionto condemn Japan, with 12 against and two abstaining.
“We feel very strongly about this,” he said, saying Britain would pursue the issue at bilateral and multilateralmeetings.
Japan caught more than 500 minke whales in 1999 for what itsays were scientific purposes and plans to add 50 Bryde’s whalesand 10 sperm whales to its new research hunting program.
It and Norway, which plans to kill 655 minkes this year, arepushing also for a resumption of commercial whaling.
New Rules for Hunting
Most members the IWC agreed to a 12-month framework to draftprocedural rules under which commercial whaling would take placeif and when the moratorium was lifted.
But, Britain, which supported the compromise, said itremained adamantly opposed to commercial whaling but had votedfor the deal to safeguard the work of the IWC.
The compromise reached at the IWC annual meeting in Adelaidewas a bid to end a decade of conflict over the rules for anyfuture resumption of whaling, amid growing concern about thecommission’s future role as a regulatory body.
The IWC backed a proposal by 10 so-called moderate nations,including Sweden, Switzerland and Ireland, to meet in Februaryto try to advance agreement on rules for whale-hunting ahead ofthe commission’s next meeting in London in mid-2001.
The rules of the so-called revised management scheme would not cover quotas, but would spell out inspection andmonitoring procedures for future commercial whaling.
Anti-whaling countries and groups want the rules to alsocover killing methods, domestic market inspections, and widerenvironmental issues.
Morley said Britain backed the revised management scheme followingallegations that anti-whaling nations were “deliberately beingobstructive” but he said it was “relaxed” about the move.
“We have not committed ourselves … apart from agreeing toa framework to take it forward,” he told reporters. “As far aswe’re concerned, the procedure agreed today is a framework fordiscussion, it doesn’t actually fast-track it.”
Environmental groups said they were disappointed with thedecision, warning that the new alignment of moderate nations wassplitting the IWC’s anti-whaling block.
But Campaign Whale spokesman Ottaway said Japan and Norwaystill faced major hurdles and opposition from staunchanti-whaling nations.
“What is significant is some traditionally anti-whalingcountries are now looking for a compromise on the whole whalingissue which has divided the anti-whaling movement,” Ottawaysaid.
“And that is only going to benefit the whalers and not thewhales,” he said.
The IWC has expressed growing frustration at the deadlockbetween whalers, mainly Japan and Norway, and anti-whalingnations like the United States, Britain and Australia.
Pro-whalers have urged Australia, which opposes outright anyreturn to commercial whaling, to quit the organization, sayingit is a whaling regulator, not a whale conservation body.