International Marine Mammal Project

“No Sanctuary for Whales” as Vote-buying Scandal Rocks Whaling Commission

Earth Island News

International Marine Mammal Project

UK – An attempt to secure new whale-safe sanctuaries in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans foundered during the July 2001 meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) as Japan and its pro-hunt allies (Norway and Iceland, plus six Caribbean nations) voted to defeat the plan. Twenty countries voted to create a South Pacific whale sanctuary while 19 countries supported creation of a South Atlantic sanctuary. The Pacific sanctuary would have protected the breeding waters of 11 species of great whales. The US delegation voted in favor of creating both sanctuaries.

Japan’s rampant vote-buying exploded on the floor of the IWC on July 23, during a debate on the “undue interference or coercion” of weak countries by powerful ones. 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 countries 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, US, the UK, Australia, Netherlands, Mexico and Argentina.

“We recently received the transcript of an interview with a prominent member of the Japanese delegation,” Conservation Minister Lee charged. “During that interview it was stated that there is ‘nothing wrong’ with his country using its Official Development Assistance Program ’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.“

“For many years, the IWC struggled to justify itself to the outside world because of its lack of transparency,” Lee stated. “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.

“It is disappointing that Japan is using such tactics,” Lee concluded. “My government is sincerely disturbed, therefore, by conduct and comment that argues that such tactics are legitimate and appropriate.”

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