Call for IWC overhaul

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New Zealand Conservation Minister Chris Carter wants a shake-up of the International Whaling Commission to give it teeth.

“I do feel the IWC needs a major overhaul. Its rules haven’t been changed in 57 years, basically,” said Mr Carter.

He told National Radio in New Zealand: “At the moment we have no disputes resolution process, no penalties for countries that break the rules.”

His comments follow the passing by 30 votes to 27 of an Australian resolution at the IWC meeting in South Korea calling on Japan to withdraw its “research” whaling plan.

Anti-whaling nations said the plan should be withdrawn unless the new research can be done without killing the marine mammals. The resolution also called for a review of the results of the present research programme.

But Japan intends to defy the vote and push ahead with increased “scientific” whaling.

It plans to boost its annual take of minke whales from 440 to as many as 935 next year and kill as many as 50 humpback and 50 fin whales after a two-year feasibility study.

Australian Environment Minister Ian Campbell said Japan should respect the research whaling decision and withdraw its plan.

And echoing the view of Mr Carter, Mr Campbell said the IWC had a dangerous impact on governance in the Pacific and other developing nations, and there was a mood for significant reform among conservationist nations.

The performance at the IWC meeting of the Solomon Islands underlined the argument of Mr Campbell.

The Solomons voted with Japan on a key measure resoundingly rejecting a proposal to end the nearly two-decade ban on commercial whaling but abstained on the vote on scientific whaling.

However, Solomons Prime Minister Sir Allan Kemakeza said the delegation had not obeyed his direction to either abstain or vote with Australia and New Zealand.

“The position here at home stayed the same. I don’t know what happened,” he told National Radio.

Sir Allan said the vote undermined him and the delegation would face the consequences.

Mr Carter said the delegation’s actions were unhelpful but other countries had voted to support Japan.

“It’s disappointing that Tuvalu, Palau, Kiribati voted with the Japanese. The Solomons – after a lot of to-ing and fro-ing – finally abstained.”

Mr Carter had reminded the small Pacific nations, except Palau which he said was unmovable, of the special relationship New Zealand had with them.

“I did try and influence their vote but I did it from the basis of ‘hey we’re friends, we’re neighbours, we can help you develop eco-tourism opportunities’ … hoping to convince them to support our cause.”

Japan had appeared confident at the start of the meeting that it would have a majority of delegations backing its plans after recruiting a number of new countries to its pro-whaling stance.

However, Mr Carter said that a number of countries that traditionally had supported the Japanese position – for instance, Korea and China – had voted with Japan but earlier in the week abstained.

He said he believed this was because of pressure in their own countries not to support the slaughter which abounded 100 years ago.

Japan suffered a further setback on its bid to permit whaling for coastal communities it says have been hurt by a moratorium on commercial hunts.

Japan wanted to change commission rules and allow it to catch 150 minke whales a year off its northern Pacific coast. The vote was 29 against and 26 for the proposal, which needed a three-quarters majority to be implemented.

Critics said the latest Japanese proposal was a ploy to catch more whales.

Many conservationists and anti-whaling nations said they supported whaling for aboriginal communities as a form of subsistence.