FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Beached in Chile

by BINOY KAMPMARK

The International Whaling Commission has had its 60th meeting, this time in Santiago, Chile.  Proceedings have followed their traditional pattern; hostilities have been reasserted between pro-whaling parties and those reluctant to give any ground on the matter.  A delegate from Iceland has gone so far as to dismiss any humane interest in whales as conservational gibberish: this, he says is not a matter of the ‘survival of the cutest’.

It all started optimistically.  Some 24 nations agreed to broker a resolution between pro- and anti-whaling nations.  The Australian environment minister Peter Garrett, more known for his reptilian gyrations as the front man for rock band Midnight Oil than sound policy, was urging a change of emphasis.  The IWC had to move from mere regulation to solid, enlightened conservation of cetacean species.

In truth, that direction has been taken by the body for some time now, even if some members have been less than enthusiastic to admit it.  The five-year moratorium of 1986 has been extended, and still applies.  Some countries on the commission, headed by Brazil, have raised the issue of a Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary, an arrangement that did not get sufficient numbers last year.

The scientific provisions of the IWC, considered by some to be ludicrous if not meaningless, have at least seen a reduction of whaling by Japan. About half as many whales are slaughtered each year than was the case before the moratorium of 1986 on commercial whaling.  This was threatened in 2005, when the Japanese made it clear that they were commencing a new phase of the whale for science program, otherwise known as the Japanese Whale Research Program in Antarctica (JARPA). JARPA-2 would lead to the slaughter of 935 minkes, 50 fin whales and 50 humpbacks from the seas around Antarctica.

This spike in numbers then caused concern at the IWC meeting in Ulsan, South Korea that year.  The first JARPA programme had an annual catch of 440 minke whales.  The revised number came unnervingly close to the annual commercial quotas in place for Antarctic minke whales prior to the moratorium.  Scientific advisors were angered – the Japanese had failed to await the results of a close examination of the first JARPA program before proceeding with the second.  A resolution, proposed by Australia, suggested that Japan either withdraw its policy or adopt non-lethal methods in attaining scientific data from whales.  It just passed – 30 votes to 27.  An indignant Japan had no desire heeding the vote.

The Japanese continued to insist at Santiago that their science is not the stuff of fantasy, a contrivance designed to back commerce over preservation.  The Institute of Cetacean Research, established in 1987 to counter the IWC moratorium on commercial whaling, has done more than anything else to bolster an obsolete, or at the very least, questionable science.

Figures are produced from time to time suggesting sustainable, if not growing numbers in whale stocks.   In the politics of whaling, numbers are relative: the IWC Scientific Committee felt that minke whale numbers in the Antarctic had probably decreased to 300,000 by 2000 or 2001.  Contra, the Japanese: the number was closer to 760,000. We are left more baffled than ever.

The Japanese have not been entirely inflexible, though they will not yield to a complete abolition of all forms of whaling.  Indeed, their opposition to the anti-whaling groups is couched in the language of a beleaguered state.  Japanese negotiators are ever wary of ‘cultural imperialism’ jammed through the backdoor of environmental politics – after all, said one advisor to the Japan Whaling Association, Shigeko Misaki in March 2003, the issue was not whether whaling should take place at all, but how it should take place. For Misaki, organizations in the US happily conceded to the slaughter of the bowhead while furiously defending the hapless minke.

The Japanese breathed a sigh of relief when Congressman Richard Pombo (R-CA) became Chairman of the U.S. House Resources Committee.  Now that was someone who would understand the ‘sustainable use of marine resources’.

The Japanese have, through skill and money, manufactured a consensus among various developing nations, who make the argument that human rights is at stake.  It is certainly as much to do with a battle of lifestyles, a matter, say of whether aboriginal subsistence hunts should be allowed to prosper.  Others are less charitable.  ‘This has more to do with sushi than science,’ suggested Darren Kindleysides, campaign manager of the International Fund for Animal Welfare in January this year.  Money, not knowledge, talks in the forum of the IWC.  The science on that score is secondary, even if much of a case can be made.

The position of such anti-whaling countries as Australia is not particularly glorious either.  What can’t be attained through diplomacy can be done through the courts – the International Court of Justice could have been the scene of an Australian application against Japan, notably on whaling beyond its allowed totals.  But the new Rudd government in Canberra shuddered at the prospect of taking on an otherwise close ally in the courts.  Prior to that, the Labor opposition had been more than content to blow the bugle for a legal redress.

In March this year, there were murmurings that Tokyo might be happy to concede to whaling within their own waters.  Otherwise the Japanese may find themselves leaving the IWC with the puff and indignation of their League of Nation predecessors in 1932.  And the IWC, they promise, will be undermined in much the same way, becoming a toothless league without effective sanction.

BINOY KAMPMARK was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, University of Cambridge.  He can be reached at bkampmark@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Binoy Kampmark was a Commonwealth Scholar at Selwyn College, Cambridge. He lectures at RMIT University, Melbourne. Email: bkampmark@gmail.com

More articles by:

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550

zen economics

Weekend Edition
December 09, 2016
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Nasty As They Wanna Be
Henry Giroux
Trump’s Second Gilded Age: Overcoming the Rule of Billionaires and Militarists
Andrew Levine
Trump’s Chumps: Victims of the Old Bait and Switch
Chris Welzenbach
The Forgotten Sneak Attack
Lewis Lapham
Hostile Takeover
Joshua Frank
This Week at CounterPunch: More Hollow Smears and Baseless Accusations
Paul Street
The Democrats Do Their Job, Again
Vijay Prashad
The Cuban Revolution: Defying Imperialism From Its Backyard
Michael Hudson - Sharmini Peries
Orwellian Economics
Mark Ames
The Anonymous Blacklist Promoted by the Washington Post Has Apparent Ties to Ukrainian Fascism and CIA Spying
Erin McCarley
American Nazis and the Fight for US History
Yoav Litvin
Resist or Conform: Lessons in Fortitude and Weakness From the Israeli Left
Conn Hallinan
India & Pakistan: the Unthinkable
Andrew Smolski
Third Coast Pillory: Nativism on the Left – A Realer Smith
Joshua Sperber
Trump in the Age of Identity Politics
Brandy Baker
Jill Stein Sees Russia From Her House
Katheryne Schulz
Report from Santiago de Cuba: Celebrating Fidel’s Rebellious Life
Nelson Valdes
Fidel and the Good People
Norman Solomon
McCarthy’s Smiling Ghost: Democrats Point the Finger at Russia
Renee Parsons
The Snowflake Nation and Trump on Immigration
Margaret Kimberley
Black Fear of Trump
Michael J. Sainato
A Pruitt Running Through It: Trump Kills Nearly Useless EPA With Nomination of Oil Industry Hack
Ron Jacobs
Surviving Hate and Death—The AIDS Crisis in 1980s USA
David Swanson
Virginia’s Constitution Needs Improving
Louis Proyect
Narcos and the Story of Colombia’s Unhappiness
Paul Atwood
War Has Been, is, and Will be the American Way of Life…Unless?
John Wight
Syria and the Bodyguard of Lies
Richard Hardigan
Anti-Semitism Awareness Act: Senate Bill Criminalizes Criticism of Israel
Kathy Kelly
See How We Live
David Macaray
Trump Picks his Secretary of Labor. Ho-Hum.
Howard Lisnoff
Interview with a Political Organizer
Yves Engler
BDS and Anti-Semitism
Adam Parsons
Home Truths About the Climate Emergency
Brian Cloughley
The Decline and Fall of Britain
Eamonn Fingleton
U.S. China Policy: Is Obama Schizoid?
Graham Peebles
Worldwide Air Pollution is Making us Ill
Joseph Natoli
Fake News is Subjective?
Andre Vltchek
Tough-Talking Philippine President Duterte
Binoy Kampmark
Total Surveillance: Snooping in the United Kingdom
Guillermo R. Gil
Vivirse la película: Willful Opposition to the Fiscal Control Board in Puerto Rico
Patrick Bond
South Africa’s Junk Credit Rating was Avoided, But at the Cost of Junk Analysis
Clancy Sigal
Investigate the Protesters! A Trial Balloon Filled With Poison Gas
Pierre Labossiere – Margaret Prescod
Human Rights and Alternative Media Delegation Report on Haiti’s Elections
Charles R. Larson
Review:  Helon Habila’s The Chibok Girls: the Boko Haram Kidnappings and Islamist Militancy in Nigeria
David Yearsley
Brahms and the Tears of Britain’s Oppressed
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail