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Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Chile Declares Permanent Ban on Whaling, Japan Pressured to Follow Suit

A Whale BreachingStarting things off with a bang, Chile declared a permanent ban on whaling on the opening day of the International Whaling Commission’s annual meeting. The Pacific Ocean-bordering country is playing host to the conference, where tensions are running high. One goal of the conference is to get enough countries to vote affirmatively to create a new whale sanctuary in the South Atlantic Ocean. But this plan might be stymied by the meeting’s own chair person.

In an effort to build consensus, the chair person of the conference urged for there to be little debate and no voting at the meeting this year. The goal is to “pay it forward,” and use any additional good will that is created this year at next year’s meeting with the hope that more can be accomplished. Many environmentalists find the chairman’s plan to be intolerable, as they claim that Japan is using “scientific research” as an excuse to hunt approximately 1,000 whales each year. But Japan isn’t the only country ignoring a 1986 ban on commercial whaling that was agreed upon by the commission.

Norway and Iceland have also started to hunt whales again, providing no excuse. At least Japan makes some effort to disguise its true motives in the name of “science.” They also suggest that hunting whale species that are abundant can be sustainable– which is perhaps a better and more reasonable argument.

Why Hunt Whales?

Whale meat is sold by some grocery stores and restaurants in Japan, and is considered a delicacy. The good news is that according to The Guardian, demand is declining. The BBC has also reported that Iceland and Norway are hunting simply because they hope to export the meat elsewhere (primarily Japan), as there is no significant demand in those countries for whale meat.

So What is Likely to Happen at This Year’s Meeting?

It’s challenging to say. This year isn’t the first time that a group of Latin American countries at the meeting have tried to secure the votes and support to create a new whale sanctuary. It will require 75% of the member nations in the International Whaling Commission to vote “aye” for a sanctuary to be created.

Meanwhile the president of Chile, Michelle Bachelet, introduced legislation yesterday that will create a whale sanctuary off of Chile’s coast– even if the other initiative fails. She spoke at a whale processing plant that has long since closed. According to one source, Bachelet said the following:

We have chosen this place, the Quintay whale plant, to highlight the Chile and the world of the past, in which there was no awareness of social and environmental consequences. Chile … wants to give the world a clear sign of its will to protect whales in its waters. This initiative is a pledge to the world of the future.

The attendees of the meeting this year might have a hard time getting much accomplished given the chair person’s aforementioned decision to avoid conflict. As an example of how this choice is reflected in actuality, lunch time for meeting attendees has been lengthened throughout the week. It is thought that by taking this measure confrontations will be reduced (and perhaps also progress will be reduced in this author’s view).

The meeting is not without other concerns and distractions, as anywhere from hundreds to thousands of protesters have been demonstrating outside of the meeting facilities. These people want Japan to stop whaling. So far the Chilean government has arrested 15 protesters.

Check back soon on Ecoworldly for an update as to whether or not the necessary votes were obtained to sanction the creation of a new whale sanctuary in the South Atlantic Ocean. I’m crossing my fingers.

Original here

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