Japan, Norway block UN role on whales

Posted at 07/07/2012 4:28 AM

PANAMA CITY - Japan, Norway and their allies blocked a bid Friday to give the United Nations a greater role on whales, as sought by conservationists frustrated by deep divisions over whaling.

Monaco, which has played an outsized role on marine protection, offered a resolution at the latest polarized session of the International Whaling Commission to invite the United Nations to contribute further to conservation.

Monaco's envoy, Frederic Briand, said that the six-decade-old Commission was undermined by its own inability to enforce decisions -- a reference to Japan's annual whaling expeditions in Antarctic waters declared a no-kill sanctuary.

Japan, Norway and Iceland -- which conduct whaling despite a 1986 global moratorium -- voiced opposition to the bid on the final day of the week-long talks in Panama. Japan had initially delayed a vote on procedural grounds.

"It is very ridiculous for the IWC to seem to give up its mandate, its law and its responsibility," Japanese official Akima Umezawa said, describing parts of Monaco's resolution as "imbalanced, inconsistent and irrelevant."

Norway's representative, Ole-David Stenseth, said that "species issues in general are not a matter for the General Assembly but for competent fisheries agencies."

Faced with opposition from whaling nations and Japan's allies in the developing world, Monaco withdrew the resolution. Briand said he would instead invite nations to meet at a later date to study the issues he raised.

In a failed bid to reach consensus, Monaco revised the resolution to take out allusions to Japan's whaling. It also watered down a call for the UN General Assembly to take up whaling at its next session, instead calling only in general terms for cooperation with the United Nations.

Briand said that his main concern was that the IWC had authority only over 38 migratory cetaceans, with no other species added in decades and limited coordination with UN environmental bodies.

Of the members of the United Nations, "a great part share our concern that the stocks of highly migratory animals should be taken care of in coordination among all concerned countries," Briand said.

The Panama talks received a jolt on Wednesday when South Korea announced it would become the fourth country to carry out whaling other than indigenous hunting, using the same loophole as Japan, which kills whales under the guise of research.