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Last Updated: Wednesday, 22 June, 2005, 05:01 GMT 06:01 UK
Caribbean call to resume whaling
By Richard Black
BBC environment correspondent in Ulsan, South Korea

Lloyd Pascal (AP)
Lloyd Pascal (l) sets out his nation's position
Caribbean and African delegates to the International Whaling Commission meeting have told the BBC they would like to begin commercial whaling.

Commercial hunts have been banned for nearly 20 years and Caribbean and African nations often urge a lifting of the moratorium at annual gatherings.

They are frequently accused of siding with Japan, leader of the pro-whaling bloc, as a return for foreign aid.

But three Caribbean delegates say the accusation is nonsense.

"We would welcome the lifting of the moratorium," said Lloyd Pascal, whaling commissioner for Dominica.

"This is a creature like all others that people depend upon for food, and therefore because of its abundance we think that we can take a limited amount and make some money out of it."

Working quotas

His view is that stocks of some whales are large enough that hunting can now be sustainable.

Colin Murdoch, the Alternate (or Deputy) Commissioner for Antigua and Barbuda, told BBC News that a resumption of whaling would open up new opportunities for local fishermen.

The key point is that if commercial whaling is resumed, then countries in the Caribbean would be given a quota
Daven Joseph, St Kitts and Nevis delegation
"We're already encouraging them to move away from the traditional inshore fisheries and to go for pelagic (open-water) species," he said.

"Apart from local consumption, there is the issue of export, and we have Guadeloupe nearby which can be a gateway to France, for example."

Daven Joseph, from the St Kitts and Nevis delegation, had a slightly different slant on the issue.

"The key point is that if commercial whaling is resumed, then countries in the Caribbean would be given a quota," he told BBC News.

The Caribbean does not need whale meat in order to solve food security problems - no-one does
Leah GarcÍs, World Society for the Protection of Animals
"Even though we might not catch whales ourselves, we could then sell the quota, like we do our tuna quota under ICCAT (the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna)."

At IWC meetings, Caribbean nations are traditionally joined in their support for pro-whaling motions by African developing countries.

One delegate from a west African country, speaking off the record, told me his government also wanted to be allowed to catch whales as a food source.

Polarised views

For the Caribbean delegates, there is a link between their enthusiasm for whaling and issues of global trade - particularly the mandate of the World Trade Organization, and removal of traditionally favourable export terms.

"We were a country that did what we could with our export of bananas; other countries in the Caribbean exported sugar," said Dominica's Lloyd Pascal.

"But what we found is that belonging to the World Trade Organization, certain objections were taken to our preferential treatment, and this has resulted in a net loss of earnings for our country.

Find out about the different endangered whale species.

"This has caused our country to reach a stage where we are now under a Structural Adjustment Programme with the International Monetary Fund."

This explanation for the Caribbean and African delegates' standpoints was rejected by Leah GarcÍs, campaigns director for the World Society for the Protection of Animals.

"There's no relationship between poverty, food problems and food security and whaling," she told BBC News.

"The Caribbean does not need whale meat in order to solve food security problems - no-one does.

"I think they're trying to find ways of explaining why they're supporting Japan."

Whatever the reasons behind the Caribbean support for commercial whaling, it seems extremely unlikely that their wish will be met within the foreseeable future.

A motion which could potentially have removed the moratorium was rejected on the second day of this conference; as the third day began, it was unclear whether any further motions that could prise open the same door would be presented.

The IWC remains a deeply polarised body, with little compromise possible between two entrenched positions; one that regards whales as a food resource like any other, and the other that sees them as special, sentient creatures which should never again be hunted.


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