Monday 15 October 2018

Whalers lose vote to change the rules

Whale conservation NGOs breathed a collective sigh of relief at the close of the biannual meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in Brazil last month.
The ‘Way Forward’ proposal, put forward and pushed strongly by the Japanese Government, was defeated, with 41 nations voting against and 27 in favour. The most concerning element of the proposal was an attempt to change the rules by which major decisions are made.
Since the IWC had its beginnings more than 60 years ago, decisions to alter the Schedule – the binding rules under which whaling is to be conducted – have required at least a three-quarters majority agreement. Japan’s plan this year was to change that to a simple majority.
If it had been successful, Japan’s next move would have been to try to overturn the commercial whaling moratorium, hoping to achieve a simple majority decision with its pro-whaling partners.
With the Way Forward proposal defeated, Japan’s State Minister of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries declared that his government was very disappointed and would conduct a reassessment of its membership of the IWC. Never mind that in 1982, Australia and its IWC allies had had to achieve a three-quarters majority to ratify the moratorium into the Schedule in the first place.
In the meantime, Japan will continue with its widely condemned practice of killing hundreds of whales each year in the both the Antarctic and north-western Pacific oceans for its domestic commercial markets, using the ‘scientific whaling’ loophole.
Sometimes, Japan likes the Schedule just as it is
At the same time, Japan was happy enough to use the three-quarter majority rule to successfully block a proposal by Brazil, Argentina, Gabon, South Africa and Uruguay to create a South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary. Although a simple majority agreed - 39 of the countries present (58%) voted in favour of the sanctuary the required majority was not achieved. It is expected the sanctuary will be on the agenda at the next full IWC meeting, in Slovenia in 2020.


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