Saturday 21 February 2009

The Australian Government Promises No Whale Trading Deals

Federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett has provided some clarification of Australia's position on the "whale trading" options currently under consideration by the International Whaling Commission (IWC).

A 28 nation Small Working Group (SWG) was established by the IWC in June 2008 to try to negotiate a resolution to the prolonged stalemate over whaling. Australia is a member of the SWG.

Since the global moratorium on commercial whaling was introduced in 1986, whaling nations have argued for the resumption of commercial whaling under new procedures and anti-whaling nations have argued for a permanent ban. All the while, increasing numbers of whales have been killed (some within the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary) for commercial markets through the exploitation of loopholes in the IWC rules.

The SWG met in September and December 2008. After the second meeting it became known that one proposal tabled included Japan decreasing its Antarctic whale hunt in exchange for approval to kill more whales elsewhere.

As stated in our news item of 01/02/09, the AWCS considers Australia's participation in the SWG to be essential, so that we are not only well informed about developments but also in a position to be directly involved in discussion, debate and negotiation.

Very little is known about the details of the proposal because these first two meetings were held behind closed doors, with media and NGOs excluded. However, such deal would create a very dangerous precedent, and conservation organisations have sought the Australian Government's views and position.

In a speech to the Lowy Institute for International Policy on 18 February Minister Garrett echoed statements made at the 2008 IWC annual meeting; "(Australia's) long-term objective remains a complete ban on commercial whaling, including an end to so-called scientific whaling. What's more, we wish to see an evolution of the international regime towards conservation."

The Minister made three important points of clarification in his address:

Australia does not view trying to legitimise scientific whaling, or simply shifting the killing of whales from one part of the world to another, as solutions.

Australia remains resolutely opposed to commercial whaling, including so-called scientific whaling, and this is the position we will continue to advocate in the IWC.

Australia will never support any lifting of the moratorium on commercial whaling.

Such a platform makes Australia's continued membership of the SWG crucial.

The next meeting of the SWG will take place in March, in the leadup to the IWC annual meeting mid-year. It is understood that the March meeting will be open to observers including NGOs (although probably not the media) and therefore provide a much better perspective of the proposals and discussions.



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