June 23, 2006
Pro-whaling countries get reprieve

If anti-whaling countries and groups have their way, having the Barrouallie “black fish” delicacy for Saturday evening supper will be a thing of the past, as attempts are being made to have the International Whaling Commission (IWC) have greater input in the management of small cetaceans including the Pilot whale (black fish). But several IWC member countries, including St Vincent and the Grenadines questioned the IWC’s legal competence to manage these small cetaceans.{{more}}

This soap opera type conflict, which was part of the just concluded 58th meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC), has not fazed this country’s IWC Commissioner one bit. Speaking to SEARCHLIGHT last Tuesday from St Kitts, Senator Edwin Snagg adamantly declared “Nobody could manage our resources better than us!”

World conservation bodies including various Caribbean based groups have expressed their alarm at the Pyrrhic victory by Japan at the International Whaling Commission, saying that if commercial whaling resumes it could negatively impact on the region’s eco-tourism and the livelihood of many businesses in the region.

But Senator Snagg remains convinced that the individual countries can manage their marine resources and maintain the necessary balance. “The same way we manage lobsters and conchs, implementing seasons and so on, we can do similarly

as it regards whaling,” stressed Snagg who remains convinced that it is difficult for landlocked countries to appreciate the Caribbean’s dependency on its marine resources. Snagg told SEARCHLIGHT that anti-whaling countries like Austria and Germany find it easy to advance their position because “their economies don’t depend on it.”

At the meeting held from Friday, June 16 to Tuesday, June 20 in Basseterre, St Kitts, the Pacific Ocean bloc successfully lobbied and got a 33-32 vote on its St. Kitts/Nevis Declaration. The St Kitts Declaration called for a “normalization” of the IWC. Simply put, it calls for the IWC to get back to issues of culling which is its mandate and not conservation.

According to the St. Kitts Declaration, the IWC will seek to normalize its functions based on several terms including a respect for cultural diversity and traditions of coastal peoples and the fundamental principle of sustainable use of resources. It also considers the need for a science-based policy and rulemaking that are accepted as the world standard for the management of marine resources.

Clearly upset by the result of the vote, all the countries voting against the declaration including the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Italy, Monaco and New Zealand disassociated themselves from the declaration following the vote. During

his conversation with SEARCHLIGHT, Senator Snagg said that it was a good sign that small countries like St. Vincent and the Grenadines could have a meaningful say in world matters such as this whaling issue.

The significance is that for the first time in decades, the Japan-led pro-whaling voting block has won a simple majority vote on a pro-whaling issue. Anti-whaling entities are now worried that Japan and other pro-whaling nations are close to being able to carry a real vote that could affect IWC policy change. This vote is considered a wake-up call to environmentalists who successfully fought and gained a whaling moratorium in 1986.

Meanwhile Dominica, Antigua and St. Lucia are up in arms against France who they claimed acted arbitrarily in drawing up boundaries for a marine sanctuary that includes some of their territorial waters. The sanctuary, which is being created to prevent the harvesting of whales, is to be set up in the waters around the French territories of Guadeloupe and Martinique. But now a conflict is brewing as the Eastern Caribbean states involved feel disrespected, contending that there should have been collaboration between France and them before the lines were drawn.