Australian Environment Minister Ian
Campbell calls it “saving an endangered species.” To the Japanese it’s “culinary
imperialism”. The debate on whaling goes on.
That debate will reach an
interesting stage when the International Whaling Commission meets in the
Caribbean island
nation of Saint Christopher and Nevis from 16 June. This
time it seems that the pro-whaling forces will have the numbers to make some
changes that will eventually lead to killing whales being called whale
harvesting instead of scientific research.

Japan, with the support of
Iceland and
Norway, wants the return of
commercial whale hunting after a moratorium of some 20 years.
Tokyo has worked assiduously
to win the support of over a dozen smaller nations with tactics that its critics
call buying their votes with foreign aid. At the weekend, Japan pledged more than
$A500 million in aid to the Pacific nations of Kiribati, the
Marshall Islands and
Vanuatu, saying it
was to garner support for its bid to be a member of the United Nations Security
Council.

Senator Campbell fears whaling votes
is the real reason for the aid, and is off on a Pacific jaunt to meet senior ministers of
island countries. “To engage one-to-one, we have to work very hard, “ he said on
leaving, “we have to try and win the arguments and that’s what we’ll continue to
do.”

Not that Australia will try
and bribe the three nations to support our anti-whaling position. We are the
virtuous country which “quite specifically never links aid to these other votes,
that would be a practice we would condemn,” Senator Campbell said. “What we do
is try and win the argument based on science, based on the need for global
conservation efforts.”

Science did not do him much good in
Kiribati yesterday
when the Fisheries Minister said his country supports Japan’s scientific whaling
and remains neutral on its push to resume a commercial hunt. In another piece of
bad news for the whales – or good news for the krill they feed on, depending on
your point of view – Guatemala has signed up to the International Whaling
Commission. The indications are that the yen will speak when it comes to that
country’s vote too.

The vote at this year’s IWC meeting
will be slightly different than in recent years This time the whalers will not
seek a vote on removing the moratorium which requires 75% to be successful.
Rather they will opt to secure a simple majority vote to put them in control of
the IWC secretariat. From that position they will be able to change the voting
procedure for the next full IWC meeting from a show of hands to a secret ballot.
When Australia cannot see how its Pacific aid recipients vote, the Japanese
believe they will put their ballot paper where their wallet is and the
resumption of commercial whaling will be allowed.

That this will be an emotive
decision was made clear to me years ago when I did not have my tongue far enough
in cheek during a radio program where I mounted a campaign to save the poor
krill from the ravages of an ever increasing horde of Antarctic whales. The
Japanese, I note, are trying a similar argument with a poster showing a whale
gobbling fish from an image of the earth with the top sliced off. The blurb,
written by the Fisheries Agency, proclaims that “whales eat five times more fish
than humans” so they “must be caught within limits.”

Let me assure them that the argument
will not work on a Melbourne radio
audience.

Peter Fray

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