ECO Newsletter
Issue #2: July 24, 2001

Whale illustrations donated by Larry Foster Table of contents:


Makah Gunning for Gray Whales

It's open season for the Makah.

How many people in this room know that Makah whaling is probably going to start up again in the next month, full on, virtually without restrictions, and certainly not under the conditions promised by the US in its brief to IWC 52? Remember those promises? The Makah wouldn't target the tiny (around 200) population of "resident" gray whales, and they would only hunt at certain times of the year to make sure they avoided females with new calves. No more! A couple of weeks ago the US National Marine Fisheries Service issued its Final Environmental Impact Assessment ... and lo and behold found there were no justifications for either restriction and recommended a year round hunting season with no geographical boundaries attached that might help the residents. Sounds like the exit card for the resident grays to us ... not only the demise of a unique subpopulation of the species but also the demise of the flourishing whale watching industry that has grown up around it.

Beyond the bombshell of the decision, we were almost equally struck by the sly behavior of the US at the Aboriginal Subsistence whaling working group last week. Asked directly about the current status of Makah Whaling, the US skirted the issue by stating only that the hunt was suspended in 2000 due to a court order. True enough. But why didn't the US add a few words of explanation, admitting that the conditions set by the court had been satisfied and that a new plan was in motion that could see the Makah landing dead grays on their beaches next month? All that remains to be done is write up a new "management" agreement stipulating the conditions under which permits can be issued, and the race to kill will be on ... we'll be exceeding surprised if Makah Days at the end of August aren't celebrated with fresh gray whale meat.

The other odd thing about the ASW workshop was the behavior of the nations that so strenuously objected to the Makah hunt in '97. No one commented ... and it's hard for us to believe no one knew. After all the objections lodged by Australia, New Zealand, the U.K., France, Netherlands, Mexico, and numerous others to the underhanded tactics used by the US to side step the "need" requirement for aboriginal subsistence whaling, why are these like-minded delegates continuing to go along with this charade when it has implications that undermine the authority of the IWC? One thing is certain. The US is counting on the silence continuing.

Is anyone here willing to speak up?


Low Frequency Active Soundblasting

During the cold war, the US Navy cooked up a device called Low Frequency Active Sonar (LFA) in order to find quiet enemy submarines. Consisting of eighteen massive speakers dangling on cables beneath a ship, LFA works by emitting some of the loudest sounds ever created (240 decibels at the source). A separate device then reads the echo. The sound has been heard over a thousand miles from the source ship.

Even though much of the Russian fleet of submarines is rusting in Vladivostok and Murmansk, and very effective passive alternatives to LFA are available, the U.S. Navy still claims this device is essential to national defense. They plan on deploying LFA from four ships across over eighty percent of the world's oceans, beginning with two ships this fall.

Just the testing of LFA and other active sonar devices, at far lower levels than planned for deployment, has left a trail of whale bodies across the Caribbean and the Mediterranean. Cat scans of beaked whales stranded last year in the Bahamas show ear hemorrhages connected to brain hemorrhages-clear indication of severe acoustic trauma. The intense sound created resonance so powerful that it sheared tissue, literally blowing the whales' ears out.

The US Navy is now waiting for permission from the US National Marine Fisheries Service (whose key officials also serve on the US delegation to the IWC) to be allowed to deploy LFA worldwide and not be held responsible for any creatures killed.

They have reason to worry. The maximum level of sound considered safe for bony fish is 150 dB, a level more than a million times less intense than the LFA source. But the US Navy, in concert with NATO allies including Britain, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, and Spain appears quite willing to gamble away the life of oceans in order to look for a nonexistent enemy.

Whether your point of view is that whales are sacred or are dinner, with no whales left, our positions, and all of the efforts within the IWC, become moot.

The Animal Welfare Institute will be holding a press conference on LFA today at noon at the Alsace room on the ground floor of the Novotel Hotel.


Vote-Buying Scandal Rocks IWC

The scandal of Japan's rampant vote-buying exploded on the floor of the IWC Monday when "undue interference or coercion" of weak countries by powerful ones was debated.

New Zealand skewered Japan in a scathing statement by Minister of Conservation Sandra Lee. Japan's deputy commissioner, Masayuki Komatsu, who recently made the incriminating admissions of Japan's vote-buying practices, angrily claimed that "the statement of New Zealand is full of lies." But he failed to name any.

Japan's use of tens of millions of dollars of development aid to buy the votes of poor island states such as St. Vincent, St. Lucia, Grenada, Antigua, Dominica, St. Kitts and Solomon Islands was the target of a resolution on transparency sponsored by New Zealand, Italy, U.S., U.K., Australia, Netherlands, Mexico and Argentina. It calls on member governments to endorse and affirm "the complete independence of sovereign countries to decide their own policies and freely participate in the IWC (and other international forums) without undue interference or coercion from other sovereign countries."

Said New Zealand's Conservation Minister: "We recently received the transcript of an interview with a prominent member of the Japanese delegation. During that interview it was stated that there is 'nothing wrong' with his country using its Official Development Assistance Programme 'in order to get appreciation of Japan's position' on whaling issues."

"My Prime Minister and Government view the proposition of vote-buying as outrageous and have publicly said so. Taking advantage of the poverty or vulnerability of developing countries and small island states to buy their votes can only be regarded as a serious misuse of power and influence by a wealthy nation.

"I should not need to remind this organization that Principle 10 of the United Nations Declaration on Environment and Development calls on States to, among other things, 'facilitate and encourage public awareness and participation by making information widely available," Lee continued.

"For many years, the IWC struggled to justify itself to the outside world because of its lack of transparency. However, increasing media access, and expanded observer role for NGOs, and keeping secret ballots to a minimum has alleviated this problem.

"But all these attempts to increase transparency are made a mockery if sovereign governments lose the very thing that makes them sovereign - the right to make their own decisions, without undue influence of other states.

"The 1970 Declaration of International Law Concerning Friendly Relations and Cooperation Among States, in accordance with the UN Charter stipulates that:

"No state may use or encourage the use of economic, political or any other type of measures to coerce another state in order to obtain from it the subordination of the exercise of its sovereign rights and to secure from it advantages of any kind."

"New Zealand fails to see how tied aid or vote buying promotes good faith, transparency or basic respect for independent governments. My government believes it is important that the IWC is not perceived as condoning such strategies that would ultimately see participation by all but a few affluent nations becoming an exercise in futility.

"It is disappointing that Japan is using such tactics as we have confidently worked alongside Japan in the United Nations and many other international fora.

"My government is sincerely disturbed, therefore, by conduct and comment that argues that such tactics are legitimate and appropriate," Lee concluded.


Iceland Ploy Scuttled

Iceland suffered a humiliating defeat yesterday as the Commission voted to reject their attempt to rejoin the IWC with a belated objection to the commercial whaling moratorium. While delegations from the Iceland, Japan and their Caribbean parrots fumed, 19 countries stood up to the audacious attempt to undermine the ability of the Commission to make binding decisions. Following that loss, Iceland lost yet another vote, in the words of the Antigua and Barbudan Commissioner, "condemning them to the status of observers."

Other initiatives from the whalers also fared poorly in yesterday's votes. The Russian Federation was denied voting rights because of nonpayment of dues. The Japan/Norway proposal to make a special accommodation of Russia was turned back by 15 Yes, 22 No.

Japan's proposal to expand the use of secret ballots also went down in flames by 14 Yes to 22 No, with two abstentions.

Tempers flared and vitriol replaced diplomacy. Banging on tables, spurious points of order, and shouts of interruption roiled the meeting. At one point the Chairman came under such withering attacks that the Plenary was recessed to a special commissioners' meeting to try to sort things out.

Below, we provide a complete reporting of Monday's five votes.


Monday's Votes

To simplify the reporting of the votes, we'll refer to the six Caribbean nations who take orders from their Japanese paymasters (Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St. Kitts, St. Lucia, St. Vincent) and Japan and the Japan/Caribbean bloc. Should any of these Caribbean nations demonstrate the ability to not take orders from Tokyo, we will note such dissenting votes in a future edition of Eco.

Vote 1: Chair's ruling that consideration of Iceland item would precede item on Russian Federation - Passed: 21-17
Yes: 21 (Argentina, Australia, Austria, Brazil, Chile, Finland, Germany, India, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Oman, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, UK, USA)
No: 17 (Japan/Caribbean bloc, PR China, Denmark, France, Rep. of Guinea, Iceland, Japan, Rep. of Korea, Morocco, Norway, Panama, Solomon Islands)

Vote 2: Chairman's ruling that the Commission has competence to determine the legal status of Iceland's reservation to the moratorium - Passed 19-18
Yes: 19 (Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Chile, Finland, Germany, India, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, Monaco, Netherlands New Zealand, Oman, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, UK, USA)
No: 18 (Japan/Caribbean bloc, PR China, Denmark, France, Rep. of Guinea, Iceland, Japan, Rep. of Korea, Morocco, Norway, Panama, Solomon Islands, Switzerland)

Vote 3: Australia/Us Motion to Reject Iceland's Reservation - Passed: 19-0-3-16
Yes: 19 (Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Chile, Finland, Germany, India, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Oman, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, UK, USA)
No: 0
Abstain: 3 (Austria, France, Switzerland)
Not Participating: 16 (Japan/Caribbean bloc, PR China, Denmark, Rep. of Guinea, Iceland, Japan, Rep. of Korea, Morocco, Norway, Panama, Solomon Islands)

Vote 4: Chairman's ruling that Iceland participate as nonvoting observer - Passed: 18-16-3
Yes: 18 (Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Chile, Germany, India, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Oman, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, UK, USA)
No: 16 (Japan/Caribbean bloc, PR China, Denmark, Finland, Rep. of Guinea, Iceland, Japan, Rep. of Korea, Morocco, Norway, Panama, Solomon Islands)
Abstain: 3 (Austria, France, Switzerland)

Vote 5: Japan/Norway motion to allow Russian Federation to vote - Failed 15-22
Yes: 15 (Japan/Caribbean bloc, PR China, Rep. of Guinea, Japan, Rep. of Korea, Morocco, Norway, Oman, Panama, Solomon Islands)
No: 22 (Argentina, Australia, Austria, Brazil, Chile, PR China, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, UK, USA)

Vote 5: Japan/Norway proposal to expand use of secret ballots - Failed 14-21-2
Yes: 14 (Japan/Caribbean bloc, PR China, Rep. of Guinea, Japan, Rep. of Korea, Morocco, Norway, Panama, Solomon Islands)
No: 21 (Argentina, Australia, Austria, Brazil, PR China, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, Monaco, Netherlands, New Zealand, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, UK, USA)
Abstain: 2 (Chile, Oman)

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