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Whaling forum outcome terrible: Brown

Australian Greens leader Bob Brown has attacked Japan, Norway and Iceland for walking out of a global forum to block a vote on the creation of a new sanctuary.

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“It’s a terrible outcome,” he said of the 63rd annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission which ended in predictable disarray after four days of acrimony.

Senator Brown singled out Japan and Iceland for special mention, saying they and a few other nations effectively had blocked the “bloody killing” of whales in the South Atlantic.

“The whole of the world really wants to see an end to the destruction of the great whale,” he said.

The deep-seated divide that pulls the IWC apart surfaced again when Japan led a walk-out of pro-whaling nations to ensure that a vote to create a sanctuary in the South Atlantic – spearheaded by Brazil and Argentina – would fail to muster the necessary quorum.

There are two such whale havens, one in the Southern Ocean around Antarctica and the other in the Indian Ocean.

Japan carries out an annual hunt during the southern hemisphere summer in Antarctic waters and said this week it planned to return next season despite vows from anti-whaling group Sea Shepherd to disrupt the hunt.

In February, Japan recalled its Antarctic fleet a month ahead of schedule with only one fifth of its planned catch, citing interference from Sea Shepherd’s vessels.

The head of Monaco’s delegation, Frederic Briand, was scathing in his assessment of the annual meeting.

“You can only conclude that this commission – which, despite a moratorium, does not have a mandate to stop the large-scale hunting still going on – is genuinely dysfunctional,” he said.

“Since the moratorium was put in place in 1986, more than 33,000 whales have been killed,” he told AFP as the 89-nation body adjourned for another year.

The one modicum of progress achieved here was the adoption by consensus of a British plan to discourage influence peddling by changing the way member nations pay their dues.

Under the old rules, members could pay subscription fees – ranging from a few thousand to more than $US100,000 ($A93,560) – by cash or cheque, a practice that fuelled allegations of corruption.

The IWC was rocked last year by accusations in the British press that Japan used cash and development aid to “buy” votes from Caribbean and African nations. Japan, which denied the charges, is one of three countries along with Norway and Iceland that practice large-scale whaling despite the moratorium, collectively taking more than 1,000 whales annually in recent years.

Such payments must now be made by bank transfer, as is done in other international organisations.

Some anti-whaling delegates and environmental groups took a “glass-half-full” approach to the outcome.

“The commission, despite the recurrent standoff between pro-hunting and pro-conservation nations, is taking small steps in the right direction,” said Sigrid Luber, president of Ocean Care, an advocacy group.

Luber said the new measure should make it easier “for delegates to express their own opinions”.

Progress was also made towards recognising the conservation status of dozens of smaller cetaceans – an order grouping 80-odd whales, dolphins and porpoises – and not just the 15 giant sea mammals currently covered by the IWC.

Others also point out that the moratorium, while flouted by the trio of hunting nations, has helped many species inch back from the brink of extinction.

“The majority of whale stocks are moving in the right direction, often at a pace of five to 10 per cent per year,” noted French scientist Vincent Ridoux, a member of the Commission’s scientific committee.

A bid to boost the voice and access of non-governmental organisations in the IWC’s proceedings also failed. “I know some of us would have liked to go further, particularly on the issue of observer and civil society participation,” said Richard Pullen, the head of Britain’s delegation.

“But negotiations mean compromise.”

 

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