Japan Spending Millions to Buy Support for Whaling
MELBOURNE, Australia, January 16, 2002 (ENS) - The Japanese government has spent over $US320 million since 1987 on buying a return to commercial whaling, said Greenpeace today after its expedition ship MV Arctic Sunrise docked in Melbourne.
After six weeks pursuing the Japanese whaling fleet in Antarctica, Greenpeace activists on board the Arctic Sunrise expressed frustration that despite all their efforts money may be the deciding factor in the future of the whales.
"The Japanese government is determined to restart whaling by any means. It's buying votes and ultimately it's buying the world's whales," said Greenpeace campaigner Sarah Duthie at a press conference on the Arctic Sunrise.
The group said if governments that support whale conservation do not move right now to stop vote buying in the International Whaling Commission, Japan could overturn the international moratorium on commercial whaling, which has been in place since 1986.
A research document released by the environmental group today showed new figures on how much money is changing hands to overturn the ban.
In 2001, over $US47 million was spent buying the votes of six countries - Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St Kitts and Nevis, St Lucia and St Vincent and the Grenadines.
This money is described by the Fisheries Agency of Japan as fisheries aid grants. But Lester Bird, Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda admitted that the money was given to his country in return for voting with Japan on whaling issues at the International Whaling Commission (IWC).
The Caribbean News Agency quoted Prime Minister Bird saying, "So long as the whales are not an endangered species, I don't see any reason why if we are able to support the Japanese, and the quid pro quo is that they are going to give us some assistance, I am not going to be a hypocrite; that is part of why we do so."
Japan has also publicly admitted that it is buying votes, but no one has previously added up the cost to Japanese taxpayers.
According to Japanese Official Development Assistance figures and publications from the Japanese Institute of Cetacean Research, fisheries aid grants exceeds $210 million while subsidies for research whaling amount to $113 million - over $US320 million dollars.
Greenpeace reports that Japanese government departments have hired international lobbyists and a PR firm as well as paying for advertising campaigns.
"While the Japanese economy is failing, our Government is wasting billions of yen to force the world to restart whaling," said Japanese campaigner Yuko Hirono on board the Arctic Sunrise. "Japan should not be using such extreme methods to get what it wants. Every member of the Japanese public pays for this and they don't even realize it."
Japan gets around the commercial whaling ban by taking a self-imposed quota of 440 minke whales in the Southern Ocean under the guise of scientific research and a similar number in the North Pacific. During the past two years, Japan has taken sperm and Bryde's whales as well as the more numerous minkes, raising protests from the United States and other nations that are attempting to conserve whales.
A coalition of anti-whaling South Pacific nations is forming around Australia and New Zealand to challenge the Japanese led whaling coalition at the upcoming IWC annual meeting in Shimonoseki, Japan, in May.
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