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Last Updated: Tuesday, 20 June 2006, 20:51 GMT 21:51 UK
Anti-whaling activists detained
By Richard Black
Environment correspondent, BBC News website, St Kitts

Policeman stands on impounded imitation whales' tails.  Image: BBC
Greenpeace found the St Kitts police in swift attendance
Ten Greenpeace activists have been detained while attempting to stage a protest at the International Whaling Commission (IWC) annual meeting.

They planned to build a "whale graveyard" in protest at Japan's hunting in Antarctic waters, which it says is for scientific research.

Greenpeace says anti-whaling countries have been too quiet on the issue.

Earlier some anti-whaling nations said they were stepping up efforts to stop a return to commercial whaling.

Delegates from Brazil and three European Union countries told the BBC they would intensify their campaign to recruit new countries onto the IWC, a response to the Commission's approval on Sunday of a declaration calling for the eventual lifting of the 20-year global moratorium.

Beach drama

Protest and activism were largely absent during the first four days of this meeting, but as the final day opened, Greenpeace sprang into action.

Greenpeace activists and the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise [AP]
The activists arrived by inflatable boat
The ship Arctic Sunrise, which spent the 2005/6 Antarctic whaling season harassing Japanese vessels in the Southern Ocean, appeared off the coast outside the conference hotel.

The first of its inflatable craft came ashore carrying five activists and a pile of cardboard placards in the shape of whales' tails, which they planned to erect into a symbolic whales' graveyard.

"We have 1,000 whale tails that represent all of the whales that are going to be slaughtered in the Southern Ocean this year by the Japanese scientific fleet," said Greenpeace spokesman Mike Townsley.

"Last season we saw the whale meat boxed and chopped on the Nisshin Maru, the so-called research vessel. This is whale meat for market, this is not science."

Funding request

Police arrived within minutes, some carrying guns, and detained the five plus another five activists who had arrived from the conference centre.

Police indicated that nine of the 10 might be charged on immigration offences, while Mr Townsley was detained for obstruction.

File picture of a humpback whale in Maui, Hawaii

While this drama was played out on the beach, in the conference chamber itself delegates were debating a resolution from the host government of St Kitts and Nevis requesting additional funds of $742,000 (386,000) from the IWC Secretariat for hosting the meeting.

It was a controversial request because the host government is supposed to bear most of the cost - and with delegates split 30-30, the request fell.

St Kitts and Nevis said that $250,000 (136,000) of its costs were allocated for security.

'Too defensive'

Greenpeace says that anti-whaling countries have been too quiet here.

Certainly, they have refrained from launching motions critical of Japan's scientific whaling, which will next year expand to include humpbacks.

Japanese negotiator Joji Morishita and a colleague react to the vote (AP)
The pro-whaling lobby won by one vote
The species is a favourite of whale-watchers and is categorised as "vulnerable" under the internationally recognised Red List of Threatened Species.

The anti-whaling countries have been concentrating instead on stalling Japanese progress towards an eventual return to commercial whaling.

This moved a step closer to reality during the meeting, with the passing of the St Kitts Declaration which calls for the IWC to be "normalised" - code for a return to its original purpose of regulating commercial hunting.

European and South American delegates told BBC News they now planned to recruit more anti-whaling countries into the organisation.

Membership drive

Delegates from three EU nations, declining to be identified publicly, told BBC News they were already talking to the Union's newest members.

"We have 14 of the 15 pre-enlargement countries in [the IWC] already, and only one of them supports whaling," said one delegate.

"We have three of the [10] new members and we're talking to the rest," he said.

There is likely to be a new recruitment drive in Latin America as well, according to Brazil's commissioner Maria Theresa Pessoa.

"We have been doing it already, together with Argentina," she told BBC News.

"We met in Buenos Aires last October with a number of Latin American countries that are not members of the IWC but might have an interest in joining or re-joining; and we are talking with these countries, and hoping that we will gather the necessary conditions for them to become part of the IWC and attach themselves to our thesis.

"Eventually, we will [achieve a majority]. I don't think that the resumption of commercial whaling is acceptable for world opinion in the 21st Century."

Richard.Black-INTERNET@bbc.co.uk


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