Earth Island Institute

ECO: The environmental voice at the IWC

ECO is published by Earth Island Institute’s International Marine Mammal Project at the meeting of the International Whaling Commission in Madeira, Portugal, on behalf of environmental and animal welfare organizations around the globe.

For further information, please contact: Mark J. Palmer, Associate Director, Earth Island Institute, International Marine Mammal Project.

Vote: Greenland Whaling Is Not All Subsistence

Volume LXI · No. 4 · Madeira, Portugal · Thursday June 25, 2009
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In ECO No. 2, we carried an article outlining the problems with Denmark’s request for increased subsistence quotas for whales in Greenland.

As much as half of Greenland’s whale meat is commercially prepared and sold in supermarkets for profit. Native subsistence needs proposed by the Greenland government are substantially higher than reality.

Clearly, Greenland has to go back and redo their entire proposal for humpback whales, to ensure that the “aboriginal subsistence” provisions of the IWC are complied with and not flaunted.

Environmental and animal welfare organizations urge commissioners to have Denmark withdraw its request and recalculate the subsistence needs of its people.

U.S.: Japan Promised to “Dismantle Its Commercial Whaling Industry”

Volume LXI · No. 4 · Madeira, Portugal · Thursday June 25, 2009
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For more than 20 years, Japan has violated a bilateral agreement with the United States in which the Japanese government promised to halt whaling.

The bilateral agreement was negotiated in November 1984 at the request of the Japanese government when it appeared that the U.S. would impose heavy economic sanctions against Japan for its violation of the IWC’s sperm whaling ban that went into effect that year.

Under the bilateral agreement, which the U.S. Supreme Court ruled has the status of a treaty, the U.S. withheld sanctions under the Pelly Amendment to the Fishermen’s Protective Act and the Packwood-Magnuson Amendment.

In return, the Government of Japan committed to ending sperm whaling in 1986 and all commercial whaling in 1988 – two years beyond the IWC’s cessation of all commercial whaling.
When a coalition of conservation, environmental and animal welfare groups filed suit to force immediate sanctions against Japan (American Cetacean Society vs. Baldrige), the Reagan Administration, which negotiated the bilateral agreement, argued that Japan had committed to end all whaling in return for permission to fish within the U.S. 200-mile fishing limit. Japanese fishing fleets were taking about $50 million worth of fish each year in U.S. waters, primarily in the Bering Sea off Alaska.

After the environmentalists won rulings ordering the fishery sanctions in two federal courts, Japan demanded an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Reagan Administration filed an appeal, and in its brief to the Supreme Court in March 1986 told the court that Japan had agreed to “dismantle its commercial whaling industry.”

Five of the nine Supreme Court justices, believing that the bilateral agreement would bring an end to the slaughter that had driven most whale species to the brink of extinction, voted to overturn the lower court decisions.

But the government of Japan deceitfully violated the bilateral agreement by declaring that its huge commercial whaling operation would continue as “scientific research.” In the fall of 1987 Japan granted itself whaling quotas in the Southern Ocean, a practice it has continued to this day.

When the Japanese fleet began killing whales in the Antarctic in 1988, the American environmental groups re-filed the original 1984 lawsuit and demanded certification of Japan under the Pelly Amendment and the immediate banning of Japanese fishing fleets under the Packwood-Magnuson Amendment. The Reagan Administration, stabbed in the back by Japan, agreed that Japan was violating the IWC whaling bans and the bilateral agreement. Japan was certified and its fishermen blacklisted.

It is time for the U.S. Government to hold the Government of Japan to the letter and spirit of the bilateral agreement.

Echoing the famous diplomatic epithet of Napoleon Bonaparte about the English two centuries ago, one anti-whaling activist acidly observes: “Perfidious Nippon.”

– Craig Van Note

Dolphins Still Die for Druglords

Volume LXI · No. 4 · Madeira, Portugal · Thursday June 25, 2009
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More than one million dolphins have been drowned in the eastern Pacific by tuna fleets suspected to be owned by drug cartels which use their long-range boats and tuna canneries to smuggle cocaine and heroin worldwide.

Last weekend in Caracas, Venezuela, a Sicilian gangster who coordinated narcotics trafficking with Colombian and Mexican drug cartels was arrested by Venezuelan and Italian police. Salvatore Miceli was listed as one of Italy’s 30 most dangerous Mafia fugitives and has been on the run since 2001, according to news reports.

“The investigation has essentially confirmed Miceli’s primary role in the drug trafficking sector and his ability to build a close network of relations with various transnational organized crime groups,” according to a statement issued by Italy’s national police, the Carabinieri.

The Carabinieri has been targeting the murderous Mafia organizations that have terrorized southern Italy for more than a century. The Sicilian Mafia of “Godfather” fame – Cosa Nostra – pioneered the tuna-narcotics pipeline in the 1970’s to replace the “French Connection” heroin-smuggling operation. Two Mafia families, the Cuntreras and Caruanas, moved to Venezuela and set up tuna companies and canneries as fronts for running heroin from Sicily to the U.S. The Italian tuna industry is dominated by the Sicilian Mafia.

When the Colombian cocaine industry boomed in the 1980s, the Sicilians formed joint ventures with the Medellin and Cali cartels to export cocaine to Europe in tuna cans and frozen tuna carcasses. The Colombian gangs then set up tuna fleets and canneries to mimic the Sicilian operation. The great “tuna/cocaine connection” was born in the late 1980s when most of the cocaine smuggling shifted to the eastern tropical Pacific, far from the air and land surveillance systems operating over the Caribbean and Central America.

Unfortunately for the dolphins, the Latin American tuna companies adopted the deadly practice of setting their huge purse seine nets around schools of dolphins in order to catch the yellowfin tuna that typically swim beneath the marine mammals. Although the American and European tuna markets went dolphin-safe in the early 1990s and banned imports of dolphin-deadly tuna, the major Latin American fleets refused to stop drowning dolphins. The drug smuggling was far more profitable: one 15-ton shipment of cocaine was more valuable than all the tuna caught in the eastern Pacific in one year. The flood of cocaine through fishing ports in Latin America was so huge – and obvious – that the drug was colloquially named “atun blanco” – white tuna.

In 1988 the Colombian and Sicilian syndicates moved into Mexico with arrival of the government of Carlos Salinas. The growing Mexican tuna industry was privatized into the hands of the drug cartels. The Cali Cartel and the Tijuana Cartel jointly bought up the major fleets and canneries. Raul Salinas, brother of the president, was a secret partner. Mexico quickly became the way-station for most of the cocaine flooding into the U.S. and Europe. Hundreds of tons of cocaine were smuggled each year in tuna boats to Pacific coast ports in Mexico.
Remarkably, the Mexican government has failed to halt the tuna/cocaine connection despite the fact that dozens of cocaine-laden tuna boats from Latin American fleets have been seized by the U.S. Navy and Coast Guard – and even the Mexican navy – in the eastern Pacific.

And the U.S. government has inexplicably been trying to overturn the ban on dolphin-deadly tuna for the past 19 years at the behest of the Mexican government and tuna industry. The Clinton Administration, with Vice President Gore taking the lead, rammed through Congress the “Dolphin Death Act” in 1997. This law attempted to declare “dolphin-safe” tuna caught by chasing and encircling dolphins; but a lawsuit led by Earth Island Institute has blocked the gambit.

The Bush Administration continued the effort to aid the dolphin-killers in the name of “free trade.” Environmental and animal welfare groups are closely watching the Obama Administration as it develops policy on the drug-tainted Latin American tuna industry. The Mexican government has filed a complaint against the dolphin-safe label standards with the World Trade Organization. So far, the Obama Administration has strongly opposed this action, working with environmentalists to prove that the dolphin-safe label is not a barrier to free trade at all.

– Craig Van Note

Whale Watching: Growing Global Phenomenon

Volume LXI · No. 4 · Madeira, Portugal · Thursday June 25, 2009
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The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) reports a dramatic and sustained increase in whale watching activities around the world in 2008.

IFAW reports that last year 13 million people went on whale watching tours in 119 countries, generating a total expenditure of $2.1 billion dollars (up from $1 billion ten years ago when the last review of the industry was done).

There are an estimated 3,300 operators who run whale watching tours around the world, and they employ an estimated 13,200 people.

This represents a rate of growth of 3.7 percent annually worldwide.

Countries attending the IWC meeting should take heed. They are (if you will excuse the pun) “missing the boat” if they don’t invest in developing tourism around whale watching and protect their local whale populations.

A Plea for Justice

Volume LXI · No. 4 · Madeira, Portugal · Thursday June 25, 2009
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The IWC has just spent much time, again, discussing the interaction between the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (“the organization that they will not name”) and the Japanese whaling fleet in the Antarctic this last season.

US, Netherlands, Australia and New Zealand made reasonable statements about competence, emphasizing – correctly – that this is properly a matter for the International Maritime Organization, not the IWC.

What concerns me is the injustice of such discussions in which only one side of the controversy is heard – that of the Government of Japan. If the IWC Commissioners want to act as Judges and turn Plenary sessions into a rump court then the very least they could do is hear Sea Shepherd’s version of events; Paul Watson is in Funchal; why not invite him in? The Japanese video is not definitive. I, with millions of others, have seen the Sea Shepherd’s helicopter footage, showing a very different story.

I don’t know who is right or wrong, but the IWC’s judgements of one side of a serious legal controversy is lamentable.

– Dr. Sidney Holt

Norway Whaling Season Fizzles Out

Volume LXI · No. 4 · Madeira, Portugal · Thursday June 25, 2009
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Times are hard all over. Norway’s whaling industry just announced that the whaling season was a complete bust, and they are ending it now.

Norges Råfisklag, the fishermen’s sales association for whale meat, announced in Norwegian media that they were stopping this season yesterday – they have the possibility to start up again later if the poor market for whale meat changes.

According to Greenpeace, if they don’t decide to start the hunt again later this season, 2009 will be the “worst” year for whaling since Norway resumed commercial whaling.

Low demand for whale meat is cited as the reason.

Japan is being forced to freeze whale meat due to low demand, while Iceland and Norway are hopeful of exporting whale meat to Japan.

Only massive government subsidies prop up the failing whaling industries of Japan, Norway and Iceland.

Targeting Mothers?

Volume LXI · No. 4 · Madeira, Portugal · Thursday June 25, 2009
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Humane Society International pulled an interesting bit of information from the gross “scientific” whaling scheme conducted by Japan in the Southern Ocean whale sanctuary: fully one third of the whales harpooned for the so-called science program were pregnant females.

The Humane Society said these figures show the “true, disgusting nature” of the whale hunt. Of 679 whales killed for the bogus Japanese science, 304 were females, and 192 were pregnant. At least four female whales were lactating, which means that their young babies were left behind to starve.

Said Kitty Block on behalf of Humane Society International: “The fact is this hunt is commercial, and killing pregnant females makes it all the more egregious.”

“The Cove”: Help Spread the Word

Volume LXI · No. 4 · Madeira, Portugal · Thursday June 25, 2009
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The Save Japan Dolphins Coalition has been working to end the slaughter of dolphins and whales in Japan, with particular emphasis on the drive fishery for dolphins in Taiji.

This summer in movie theaters around the US (and this fall in theaters around the world), a new documentary on the work of our Coalition, featuring Richard O’Barry, will open.

“The Cove” is an intense and inspiring experience. It received standing ovations in various film festival circuit theaters. It received the Audience Award at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival, and has so far garnered further Audience Awards at the Hot Docs Film Festival in Toronto, the Newport Film Festival, and most recently the Seattle International Film Festival. We expect worldwide publicity for the film as it opens.

We want your organization to join us in getting the word out about “The Cove” and intensifying the campaign to end the Japan dolphin slaughter.

We would like your help to spread the word about “The Cove” and urge your members to take action. It is important that we all give out the same message for action.

Please contact us for further Information about “The Cove” and our Campaign:

Ric O’Barry
(786) 973-8618
David Phillips
(510) 859-9145
Mark J. Palmer
(530) 758-6022
Susan Millward
(202) 337-2332

The Save Japan Dolphins Coalition consists of Earth Island Institute, Elsa Nature Conservancy of Japan, Ocean Care, In Defense of Animals, Campaign Whale, and the Animal Welfare Institute.

Thank You, DJ Schubert!

Volume LXI · No. 4 · Madeira, Portugal · Thursday June 25, 2009
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ECO wants to recognize the efforts of one of our unsung heroes: DJ Schubert of the Animal Welfare Institute.

DJ not only serves on the US delegation representing US NGOs, he also coordinates and helps organize the efforts of NGO groups around the world who attend the IWC. He has done an excellent job in Madeira, and we thank him for his graceful herding of us cats.

Thank You, Madeira and Portugal

Volume LXI · No. 4 · Madeira, Portugal · Thursday June 25, 2009
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ECO wants to thank the government and people of Madeira and Portugal for a great venue for the IWC meeting.

Thank you for your hospitality and friendliness. Great climate, great views, great food, and wonderful whale watching.

If any folks find they have time on their hands on Friday, please consider joining one of the whale watching cruises offshore.

Hogarth Deal: The Bowhead Connection

Volume LXI · No. 3 · Madeira, Portugal · Wednesday June 24, 2009
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So, why is the US delegation working so hard to make a deal with Japan that will allow continued so-called “scientific” whaling in the Southern Ocean and allow new commercial whaling in Japan’s coastal waters on the depleted J Stock of minke whales on top of the 20,000+ small cetaceans Japan now kills each and every year?

The key to this puzzle rests not in the whaling countries, nor in US public opinion, nor in the US Congress, nor in the US courts. It all lies north at the frozen edge of the continent in Alaska.

Alaska’s Inuit have been killing bowhead whales for centuries to provide food for their people. Unlike Japan’s so-called “cultural” whaling or “scientific” whaling, none of the Alaskan bowhead meat is sold in stores for a profit – the meat and blubber is all shared by the tribes on Alaska’s north slope.

The Alaskan subsistence hunt for bowhead whales has been extensively debated at the IWC and is now well accepted as a sustainable hunt for subsistence purposes.

But that has not stopped Japan and its client countries from using the bowhead whale hunt and the lives of the Inuit as a bargaining chip for their own whaling industry.

So, two years ago at the Alaskan meeting of the IWC, US IWC Commissioner and Commission Chairman William Hogarth approached the Japanese to reach a deal. The secret deal, as noted in ECO No. 1, was based on allowing Japan to start killing whales in their coastal waters for commercial purposes while also allowing (supposedly at a lower level) continued “scientific” whaling in the Southern Ocean. The deal fell apart when Japan refused to reduce the number of whales they expected to kill in both their coastal waters and the Southern Ocean, a “compromise” several countries in the negotiations could not stomach.

But there was someone else standing in the shadows. That “someone” was Senator Ted Stevens, a powerful Republican in Congress who represents Alaska and supports the bowhead hunt. In his capacity as a member of the Senate Appropriations Committee, Senator Stevens held the budget of the Dept. of Commerce and William Hogarth’s National Marine Fisheries Service in the palm of his hand. And he was well known for exacting political revenge from those who displeased him.

The rumor is that Senator Stevens himself approached the Japanese government, assuring them that the US would support their whaling activities in exchange for them agreeing not to block the bowhead quota renewal for Alaska in the 2010 IWC meeting.

(Senator Stevens’ support for the Inuit’s subsistence whaling is strange, as he also is a major advocate for the oil industry and supporter of offshore oil drilling off Alaska’s North Slope. He famously publicly threatened retaliation to fellow Senators who failed to vote in favor of opening up the coastal area of Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling. Senator Stevens’ sad policy on oil drilling now threatens both the habitat of the bowhead whales with pollution and drilling noise and the villages of Inuit with inundation from rising sea levels due to global warming, spurred by burning of oil.)

But Senator Stevens held power during the Presidency of George Bush. A scandal involving the payment of thousands of dollars for renovation of Stevens’ private home in Anchorage by a local oil company owner led to Stevens leaving the Senate in 2008, while President Bush has been replaced by President Obama.

Unfortunately, President Obama’s Administration is nowhere to be found in Madeira. The Bush appointees are still in charge of the US IWC delegation.

Where is President Obama, and why isn’t he reining in the US delegation’s sellout to Japan?

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