Brazil Leads Another Bid for a South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary
FRIGATE BAY, St. Kitts and Nevis, May 31, 2006 (ENS) - Scientific consultations have begun in advance of this year's International Whaling Commission meeting and so has the political maneuvering both for and against whale conservation.
A broad alliance of Brazilian institutions, including the federal government, private and state owned corporations and nongovernmental organizations is resuming a drive to consolidate the South Atlantic Ocean as a zone free of whaling through the promotion of a South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary.
Each year since 1998, Brazil has proposed a South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary that would extend from the east coast of South America to the west coast of Africa.
The decision to continue pursuing the Sanctuary within the International Whaling Commission, despite opposition by the growing pro-whaling block, was announced Monday by the Brazilian Alternate Commissioner José Truda Palazzo, Jr., at the IWC Scientific Committee annual meeting.
The meeting is taking place at the St. Kitts Marriott Resort & the Royal Beach Casino at Frigate Bay in the Caribbean nation of St. Kitts and Nevis. The small island country is hosting the Commission's pre-meetings and its annual plenary from June 16 to 20, when the Sanctuary will again come to a vote.
Like many other small island states, St. Kitts and Nevis supports whaling in exchange for Japanese fisheries aid.
Argentina and South Africa, plus several other pro-conservation countries like Australia and New Zealand, are co-sponsors of the South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary proposal.
The Foreign Affairs Ministry of Brazil, the Aquatic Mammals Center of the Brazilian Environmental Authority (IBAMA), and the International Wildlife Coalition/Brazil have pooled personnel and resources to promote the sanctuary as a lobbying tool to prevent the resumption of whaling in the region and promote non-lethal use of cetacean resources instead.
The campaign is sponsored by a Brazilian shipping company, NORSUL, and the long-term studies which help provide scientific support for the proposal have been sponsored by the state-owned oil company PETROBRAS.
The IWC rules request a three-fourths majority vote to approve the sanctuary. Guatemala joined the International Whaling Commission on May 15, bringing the membership to 67 countries.
Fifty countries must vote in favor of a sanctuary, a number that Palazzo says is unlikely to be achieved given the recent growth of the pro-Japan block. Brazilian officials remain convinced that the Sanctuary concept must be pursued regardless.
"It is rewarding to see that people and institutions from different sectors of Brazilian society are strengthening the case for the Sanctuary, making it clear to the international community that our society does attach great importance to its right to protect and manage whales by non-lethal means," said Palazzo in a communiqué issued Monday in Frigate Bay, St. Kitts.
"The recent 'vote consolidation efforts by the whaling block to gain majority in the IWC do not intimidate us," Palazzo said.
Palazzo said Brazil views "the encroachment of unregulated whaling in the Southern Hemisphere by hyperdeveloped Northern nations as very similar to biopiracy, an abuse on the taking of biodiversity resources which are used non-lethally by Southern Hemisphere peoples."
He called it "a serious issue" that should not be confined to the IWC discussions. Brazil proposes to take this issue up in other international treaty discussions, because said Palazzo "modern environmental law greatly supersedes the outdated 1946 whaling convention."
Brazil has recently led a diplomatic action condemning Japanese scientific whaling of hundreds of minke whales in the Southern Ocean Sanctuary around Antarctica, which Brazil considers "an abusive take without any scientific justification."
The Cetacean Institute of Japan says that this season 853 Antarctic minke whales were killed and 10 Antarctic fin whales met the same fate.
Japan maintains that the killing of these whales for research purposes is necessary and also that it is allowed under the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling, the treaty which is administered by the IWC.
To shore up support for whale conservation in advance of the IWC annual meeting Australian Minister for the Environment and Heritage Senator Ian Campbell will visit the Pacific nations of Kiribati, the Marshall Islands and Vanuatu this week.
Kiribati has been a member of the IWC since 2004. Vanuatu has recently declared a whale sanctuary in its national waters, and the Marshall Islands has recently shown an interest in whale conservation issues.
Senator Campbell said it is important to build on Australia's relationships with countries in the region, particularly in the face of evidence suggesting that humpback whale numbers show little or no signs of recovery in the Pacific.
“This is an issue that cannot be ignored. It is vital that we talk through with our Pacific neighbors the very real implications of a return to commercial whaling, particularly as the IWC pro-whaling bloc continues to grow stronger," Campbell said.
From the start of Southern hemisphere industrial whaling in 1904 to 1986, it is estimated that nearly two million whales were killed in the Southern hemisphere. Due to the moratorium on commercial whaling in place since 1986, some whale populations are beginning to recover.
“Sadly, however, that does not appear to be the case in the Pacific where humpback whale numbers remain low," Campbell said. "To take even a few whales from these uncertain populations could jeopardize their recovery in the region."
“This year's IWC vote is crunch time for the future survival of whales and every vote will be critical," the Australian minister said.
“I have been working day and night through a range of international channels to pursue a permanent global moratorium on commercial whaling and an end to scientific whaling," said Campbell, who will lead Australia's delegation to the main IWC meeting.
“Now, more than ever," he said, "we need to garner as much support as we can or we face the real prospect of a return to the days when killing whales was commonplace.”
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