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Swiss unhappy with lack of progress at whaling conference

The Swiss delegation at this year's International Whaling Commission (IWC) conference has sharply criticised fellow member countries for failing to make any worthwhile progress.

Swiss officials, who travelled to London with hopes of reversing the decline in whale numbers, blamed the stalemate on a "poor standard of debate" and the failure of the 43 members to reach a compromise on the way forward.

Thomas Althaus, from the Federal Veterinary Office, said he deeply regretted the fact that no progress had been made on the issue of establishing controls should whaling resume. A moratorium on commercial whaling has been in place since 1986.

Althaus added that he hoped member countries would be able to set aside their differences ahead of next year's conference, which is due to take place in Japan.
The IWC has set up an eight member-strong working group in order to try to speed things up ahead of next year's meeting.

The Swiss did draw some comfort from the one-year extension to the existing moratorium on commercial whaling. However not all countries were in agreement: the Norwegians refused point blank to recognise the ban; while Japan said it would continue to hunt whales for "scientific" purposes.

Iceland, which had previously walked out on the IWC before being readmitted this year as an observer, also said it would resume whaling in 2002.

Switzerland has not ruled out a limited resumption of commercial whaling, but is seeking to attach strict conditions. However experts want to see scientific proof that such a move would not threaten the species or the eco-system.

swissinfo with agencies


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