Dominica has rejected criticism that its vote on the International Whaling Commission (IWC) was up for sale, after the prime minister returned from Japan and renewed his support for commercial whaling.
Ironically, the Caribbean island markets itself as the “Nature Island”, with whale watching being one of its attractions.
As a response to the financial input from Japan, a British peer, Lord Ashcroft, has commissioned an unprecedented television advertising campaign which he hopes will persuade the inhabitants of Dominica and five other West Indies nations not to support Japan’s plan to overturn the ban on commercial whale hunting.
The campaign is being mounted in conjunction with the UK- and US-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA).
In recent years, the Japanese government, recognising the importance of national votes at the IWC, has been actively recruiting support from some of the world’s smaller nations, trading financial assistance for pro-whaling votes at IWC meetings. The governments of six island nations in the eastern Caribbean, with a combined population of about half a million people, have succumbed to such overtures. Along with Dominica they are Antigua & Barbuda; Grenada; Saint Kitts and Nevis; Saint Lucia; Saint Vincent & the Grenadines. In every case, the Japanese have provided these nations with financial support in the form of fisheries aid.
Dominica joined the IWC in 1981 then left 1983 without voting on the ban on whaling in 1982. It rejoined the IWC in 1992, mostly taking a pro-whaling position, but often abstaining on key votes, including the vote to establish the Southern Ocean Sanctuary. However since 1997 Dominica has voted almost exactly in line with Japan, with 95 out of 98 votes cast mirroring Japan’s vote.
Lord Ashcroft, who has a home in Belize, said, “Amongst the sightings of which I have the most vivid and fond memories are of humpback whales in the Southern Ocean, close to Antarctica. To watch these huge and extraordinary creatures ‘breach’ – launching themselves head first right out of the water and then crashing back down – is in my view amongst the great wonders of the world. It is entirely beyond my comprehension that the Japanese now plan to harpoon fifty humpback whales next year in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary itself. We must persuade our Caribbean friends to resist the Japanese bribery, and to vote in favour of the whales and a continuation of the ban.”
The 59th annual meeting of the IWC takes place in Anchorage, Alaska, from 28th to 31st May 2007. In the run up to this meeting, the TV ad will be showing on prime time television in all six Caribbean countries that vote with Japan.
The Caribbean Whale Friends web site, funded by Lord Ashcroft, is asking people to e-mail the government departments of Dominica and the other nations, urging them to oppose commercial whaling. Contact details are at http://www.caribbeanwhalefriends.org/country_2.htm
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