Secret Japan Deal To Trade Whale Kills
Andrew Darby, Hobart
January 27, 2009
THE Federal Government has secretly helped to draw up a potential deal to break the whaling deadlock that would let Japan expand North Pacific kills in return for Antarctic cuts.- More whale kills for Antarctic cuts- Australia helps draw up secret deal- 'This is Whalergate,' says IFAW
Japanese whalers could hunt a regulated number of minke whales in their own coastal waters under the plan, as well as take many more whales in the high seas of the North Pacific.In exchange Japan would agree to one of two offers: either to phase out whaling under self-awarded scientific permits in the Antarctic entirely, or to impose an annual Southern Ocean limit.The package was hammered out in confidence by an International Whaling Commission drafting group of six nations, including Australia and Japan, at a meeting in Cambridge, England, last month. It was obtained by The Age yesterday.The International Fund for Animal Welfare said it appeared that Australia had become part of a dangerous drift towards commercial whaling in the 21st century."This is Whalergate," Patrick Ramage, global director of IFAW's whale program, said from the US yesterday."We have had growing concerns about the talks under way behind closed doors in the IWC. Those concerns are increased by the leaking of this secret plan."We would hope and expect Australia to take the lead in ending scientific whaling. What we're looking at here is not a creative and sustained effort to make Japan step away. It's a cobbling together of ingredients."A spokesman for Environment Minister Peter Garrett said Australia remained strongly opposed to commercial whaling in all its forms, including so-called scientific whaling."While Australia is actively participating in these deliberations, the process at this stage is one of discussion," the spokesman said."We do not expect that every view or option put forward, whether by other IWC members or by the IWC chair, will reflect the Australian Government's position."The IWC, under the chairmanship of Bush administration-appointee Bill Hogarth, has held a series of meetings over the past two years to try to repair the global schism over whaling.The Federal Government signed on to the Hogarth process as offering the best chance of ending Japanese Antarctic whaling through diplomacy. Prime Minister Kevin Rudd said last week that Australia and other countries were directly engaging with Japan on the issue.Japan is continuing to warn that the IWC is so polarised there remains a high possibility of the process collapsing."This year is a moment of truth for the IWC," Joji Morishita, a counsellor with Japan's Fisheries Agency, said last week."This is almost a final try. If we fail, we will need a cooling-off period."But the six nations in IWC's drafting group — Australia, Japan, the United States, Sweden, Brazil, and New Zealand — seem to have gone much further down the track towards agreement than was thought.Mr Hogarth was to unveil this document at an inter-sessional meeting of the IWC in Rome in early March, ahead of a possible vote at the organisation's annual meeting in Madeira, Portugal, in June.It sketches out a five-year plan for the resolution of many contentious IWC issues. But at its heart is what the drafters said was a "direct link" between scientific whaling and Japanese coastal whaling."For example, if an option to phase out scientific whaling in the Southern Ocean was agreed, a larger quota could be assigned for coastal whaling provided that all annual quotas are consistent with the advice of the Scientific Committee," the document says.An "interim quota" of minke whales off the Japanese coast would last for five years, and be regulated tightly, including by genetic sampling to protect whales from the endangered "J" stock, which swims in the Sea of Japan.On scientific whaling, the first option provides for no kill of humpback or fin whales in the Southern Ocean, and a phase-out of scientific whaling for minkes, reducing by 20 per cent each year to zero after five years.The second option provides for an unspecified "sustainable" limit on minke and fin whales still hunted in the Antarctic, countered by whales taken in the Western North Pacific.At the same time, the documents claim that the IWC's global moratorium on commercial whaling "will remain in effect"."That seems to rank alongside 'there is no recession' and 'there are WMDs' as an Orwellian approach beyond belief," said IFAW's Patrick Ramage.Federal shadow environment minister Greg Hunt said it was a gross betrayal of the Australian public for Mr Garrett to be working secretly on a proposal to recommence Japanese commercial whaling."This is completely unacceptable," Mr Hunt said. "Australia's position must be: no way, no whaling, whatever."Speaking from the ship Steve Irwin, anti-whaling Sea Shepherd leader Paul Watson said his group would continue its zero-tolerance approach to whaling in the Southern Ocean."Japan has no right to kill whales in these waters and we considered their activities to be blatantly illegal and intolerable," he said.