ECO Newsletter
Issue #4: July 26, 2001

Whale illustrations donated by Larry Foster Table of contents:

Dolphins Win Landmark U.S. Court Case

A US appellate court has ruled unanimously that the federal government abused its discretion and acted illegally when it declared that the chasing and netting of dolphins by tuna fishermen as a way of catching tuna had no significant adverse impact on depleted dolphin populations.

On Monday, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco struck down the attempt by the US Secretary of Commerce to allow use of a "dolphin-safe" label on tuna caught by chasing and netting dolphins. The ruling prohibits any sale in the US of tuna under a weakened dolphin-safe label.

More than seven million dolphins have been drowned or mortally injured in the Eastern Tropical Pacific ocean by the tuna industries of the US, Mexico and other Latin American countries since 1958, when purse-seine fishing "on dolphins" was initiated in order to catch yellowfin tuna schools that swim under large schools of dolphins.

The US Marine Mammal Protection Act was adopted in 1972 primarily to end this deadly fishing practice.The US tuna industry halted its use of this technique in the early 1990s, when leading US tuna companies agreed to sell only dolphin safe tuna and the US banned imports of dolphin-deadly tuna from abroad.

But several Latin American nations, led by Mexico, refused to stop chasing and netting dolphins and demanded that the US reopen its markets and create a weakened "dolphin-safe" label for their dolphin-unsafe tuna.

The Clinton/Gore Administration, willing to sacrifice environmental protections on the altar of "free trade," rammed amendments to the Marine Mammal Protection Act through Congress in 1997. That new law allowed the use of a less restrictive dolphin-safe label, but only if the Secretary of Commerce made a scientific finding that the practice of setting nets on dolphins had no significant adverse impact on depleted dolphin populations.

But environmental and animal welfare groups, led by Earth Island Institute, HSUS, Animal Welfare Institute, International Wildlife Coalition, ASPCA, and Defenders of Wildlife, filed suit in 1999 after the Commerce Department approved use of the less restrictive label despite scientific evidence that chasing and capturing dolphins does have significant adverse effects.

New research shows that the chase and capture separates mother and young dolphins and that large numbers of dependent young dolphins are killed but never observed dead in the nets. Further studies demonstrate that despite a decade of relatively low kill levels, at least two species of depleted dolphins, the NE Offshore Spotted dolphins and the Eastern Spinner dolphins have not shown signs of recovery.

Norway to Launch Exports

In open defiance of the international ban on trade in whale products, Norway plans to soon ship hundreds of tons of minke whale blubber to Japan, according to reports from Oslo.

Yesterday, after a bitter debate, the IWC adopted a resolution calling on Norway to "refrain from issuing export permits" and to "reconsider" its objection to the commercial whaling moratorium. The commission chastised Norway for unilaterally abandoning the most conservative "tuning level" in setting its quotas in favor of a new level giving itself a higher kill.

Norway has been killing hundreds of minke whales each year for the past decade despite the IWC ban. The meat has been consumed internally, but there is no domestic market for the whales' blubber. Thousands of tons have been stockpiled over the years-and most discarded because of deterioration or storage costs.

The Norwegian government has now caved in to the demands of its whaling industry to allow the export of the current blubber stockpile-600 tons-to Japan, where the whale fat has a ready market.

The impending export will be a serious breach of the whale product trade ban adopted by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) in 1981 when all ten species of great whales were listed as endangered (Appendix I).

The Norwegian government recently claimed that export of whale blubber is "normal and legal." Yesterday the delegation declared that "the Norwegian government decided that there was no basis" for continuing the trade ban.

But in 1992, when it declared in a dramatic opening statement to the IWC that it was resuming commercial whaling, Norway pledged that it would not export any whale products. When the U.S. considered sanctions against Norway in response to the renewed whaling, Norway made a bilateral promise that there would be no exports. On Monday, the U.S. commissioner to the IWC, Rolland Schmitten, expressed dismay over Norway's planned export, warning that it would "strain the relationship of our two countries," reported the New York Times.

And yesterday the U.S. delegation stated that Norway "should not be surprised by this resolution," citing numerous IWC resolutions in recent years criticizing Norway's whaling, and pointing out that the conservative tuning level was adopted by the IWC in 1991 and reaffirmed by consensus-including Norway-in 1994.

If Norway and Japan begin trafficking in whale blubber, there will be demands by Norway's defiant whalers to export minke whale meat as well to Japan, where prime cuts would fetch ten times or more than in Norway. The pressure -- and profits -- would prove irresistible.

The IWC should request that Japan reject Norway's whale products. The high levels of contaminants in Norwegian whale blubber, including PCBs and heavy metals, could cause Japanese health authorities to intervene.

Getting the blubber to Japan has become more difficult in recent days as Scandinavian Airlines System (SAS), the joint flag carrier for Norway, Sweden and Denmark, and Finnair joined 21 other airlines last week in refusing to transport exports of whale products.

The aerial blockade list now includes Lufthansa, British Airways and KLM, which said they would also not carry Norwegian whale meat exports, according to Greenpeace.

"If we are offered a load, we will say no thanks," SAS spokeswoman Trine Loevberg said.

New Zealand Slams "Blatant" Vote-Buying

New Zealand has condemned the "blatant" vote-buying that led to the defeat of the South Pacific Whale Sanctuary Tuesday, and vowed to pursue "alternative options" such as a network of vast national sanctuaries around the region's island nations.

Prime Minister Helen Clark said that the New Zealand government was "very concerned by the stacking" of the IWC membership, stating that the political manipulation and vote buying at the IWC are "blatant" and must be challenged, reports the Associated Press from Wellington.

The popular Prime Minister, an outspoken defender of the whales and the environment, last week lashed out at Japan after the whaling nation's top international fisheries official, Masayuki Komatsu, admitted that Japan has used development aid to recruit and influence small nations at the IWC.

"New Zealand and other countries opposed to whaling have long suspected that Japan was using overseas development aid money to persuade poorer nations, without any direct interest in whaling, to support Japan's pro-whaling stance at the International Whaling Commission," Clark said in an official statement.

"Japan must surely be embarrassed by today's revelation from one of its own senior officials.

"For some time now, Japan has been under suspicion of effectively buying the support of poorer countries. At last year's annual IWC meeting in Adelaide, for example, six Caribbean countries voted with Japan on virtually every motion, and helped to overturn a joint New Zealand-Australian proposal for a South Pacific whale sanctuary.

"When put alongside Japan's longstanding but spurious assertion that it is taking large numbers of whales for purely 'scientific' and 'research' purposes, this confirmation of Japan's tactics shows the desperate lengths it will go to in order to maintain whaling. If Japan is indeed indulging in the sort of behavior alluded to by Mr. Komatsu, it can only underline the bankruptcy of its stance on whaling," Clark concluded.

New Zealand's Minister of Conservation, Sandra Lee, who has been leading the delegation to the IWC meeting, said after the defeat of the sanctuary that Japan's vote-buying tactics have "cast a shadow over the proceedings. It is extremely frustrating that some members of the IWC have so little regard for the sincere aspirations of nonmember countries of the South Pacific who seek a more permanent protection for the severely-depleted populations of great whales in their region."

Lee said that New Zealand will work in partnership with other Pacific island nations to bar the whaling ships from area waters. "New Zealand's protection of whales within its EEZ is already being emulated by French Polynesia and could serve as a model elsewhere in the Pacific. A network of local sanctuaries could cover up to 75 percent of the proposed sanctuary area and help protect the devastated populations of great whales. It would make a valuable contribution to sustainable eco-tourism initiatives."

David McTaggart: In Memoriam
24 June, 1932 through 23 March, 2001

David McTaggart, Greenpeace International's Chairman from 1979 to 1991, died this spring in an auto accident near his home in Italy.

Many NGOs, delegates, and scientists here at the IWC were among David's closest colleagues and best friends. McTaggart was a fixture at nearly every IWC meeting and was an unstoppable force.

For twenty-five years, he led Greenpeace campaigns to save the whales. He played a pivotal role in the first Greenpeace protest against French nuclear testing at Mururoa in the South Pacific in 1972, worked to stop the dumping of nuclear waste, block production of toxic wastes, and protect Antarctica from exploitation.

When asked why Greenpeace chose to fight for the whales, McTaggart replied, "Well, we didn't sit down around someone's kitchen table and say to ourselves, 'We need to find a senseless environmental crime that illustrates civilization's blindness to limits and provides a tidy symbolic parable about the imminence of humanity's own extinction.' We were doing it for a single reason: whales were endangered, and we were just plain angry that the planet was about to lose entire species due to nothing but greedy pigheadedness."

"When we put a small inflatable boat out in front of a harpoon, yes, it definitely had a symbolic value, but it also had a practical effect. And it had a message that we stand by to this day; we put our lives on the line to save the environment. That's not trite, that's an honest portrayal of the magnitude of these issues; life and death ... Our lives are threatened every day by toxic waste, poisoned air, and a world whose natural balances are being dangerously set askew. People die from radioactive contamination. People die from eating poisoned fish. We cannot continue on as a civilization to simply dismiss these things as necessary costs. It's murder. No-it's suicide. Environmentalism is the study of consequences, and it doesn't take a lot of vision to see that we destroy ourselves when we destroy our environment."

Former Greenpeace staffer Kieran Mulvaney called David, "probably the single most exasperating, infuriating, obnoxious, obstinate man I ever met, and probably also the single most brilliant, charming, energetic and charismatic. Having David McTaggart in your life was like living in the path of a tornado. You knew the storm could blow along at any time, but there was never enough time to reach the storm cellar; before you knew it, your life had been turned upside down. But it was an incredibly exhilarating ride, and I for one consider my life blessed and immeasurably improved for having experienced it."

Sydney Holt recalls, "Twenty years ago, it seemed to both of us that the great efforts to 'save the whale' that had begun a decade previously could only succeed if NGOs formed strong, coherent alliance with limited objectives. David worked tireless to that end, and with much success. Such an alliance ensured, I think, the adoption of the moratorium in 1982 and the Southern Ocean Sanctuary in 1994. David had an amazing talent for 'seeing the wood for the trees' and focusing on achievable objectives. He also realized, more clearly than most of us, that our strategy had to include scientific, political and public campaigning strands, all tightly braided and pulling in concert. We are diminished by the premature loss of that talent, but he would not like us to be deterred from pursuing our common objective relentlessly."

And so we shall.

Say No to Commercial Whaling!

International opposition to the resumption of commercial whaling is represented in a statement published by the Global Whale Alliance, a consortium of some 126 groups from around the world:

We hereby express our profound opposition to the completion and adoption of the International Whaling Commission's Revised Management Scheme (RMS) that will inevitably result in the lifting of the global moratorium on commercial whaling.

We believe there are a growing number of ethical, political, legal, environmental and scientific arguments that support our view that the commercial hunting of whales cannot be justified in the 21st century.

Commercial whaling poses an unnecessary and unacceptable risk both to the health and recovery of surviving whale populations and the people who consume whale products.

The Global Whale Alliance calls for a coalition of nongovernmental organizations, governments, scientists and members of the public to oppose the RMS; to support the continuation and strengthening of the commercial whaling moratorium; and support the vital research necessary to quantify and address both the serious environmental threats to whales and the health risks to people who eat whale products.

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