The 63rd International Whaling Commission meeting closes

Feature Story - 18 July, 2011
As another IWC annual meeting draws to a close, a small yet significant step was taken to stamp out corruption. Yet once again, no decisions were made to bring in widespread conservation measures for the world’s whales.

The 63rd annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) came to a close in Jersey on Saturday, a day which saw pro-whaling member nations leaving the meeting to avoid voting on the creation of a South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary. Despite most member countries backing the new whale sanctuary, pro-whaling nations once again prevented this vital decision from taking place.

Before the meeting even began expectations of an end to the annual slaughter of whales were low, as was the creation of the South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary. But a British proposal to crack down on alleged vote-buying gave a glimmer of hope the Commission can begin much needed reforms.

Last year, the IWC was rocked by allegations that Japan had resorted to offering a range of sweetners – ranging from aid money, to first class flights and prostitutes – to firm up its numbers in the pro-whaling camp. Backed by the likes of Tanzania and Guinea, the pro-whaling nations – consisting primarily of Iceland, Norway and Japan – have consistently been able to stymie change.

In a positive move, this year the IWC adopted new rules to stop cash payment of member dues, which will hopefully mean a new era of transparency for the Commission. The move to ban cash payments means that at last the IWC can be dragged into the 21st Century and will make it difficult for pro-whaling nations to buy votes. This is a welcome step towards the IWC functioning as an organisation that works for the whales, and not the whalers.

Also last week, Japan continued to show disregard for international human rights law, following the Sendai High Court’s decision to uphold convictions handed down to anti-whaling activists Junichi Sato and Toru Suzuki. The decision comes in spite of an official admission of wrongdoing by the Fisheries Agency of Japan in December 2010, and despite strong evidence supporting the activists’ allegations
of criminal embezzlement.

Known as the Tokyo Two, Junichi and Toru were convicted of “theft and “trespass” by the Aomori District Court in September 2010, after they exposed broad scale embezzlement in Japan’s whaling industry. The court rejected all of the arguments presented by the defence, upheld the unjust convictions handed down by the Aomori court, and gave no clear reasoning for its decision.

The Tokyo Two will now decide whether to take their case to the Supreme Court.

Call for an end to whaling in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary and support anti-whaling activists Junichi and Toru, take action here.