Switzerland calls for an end to scientific whaling

Delegates in front of the main entrance of the Kaikyo convention centre in Shimonoseki

A Swiss delegation has arrived in the Japanese town of Shimonoseki to attend the annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC).

This content was published on May 21, 2002 - 00:00

The issue of whether to lift the whale-hunting ban will be high on the agenda of the meeting and, according to the Federal Veterinary Office (BVET), Switzerland will fight against the killing of whales for research purposes.

Commercial whaling has been banned since 1986, but environmentalists claim that pro-whaling countries such as Japan or Norway find loopholes to get around the moratorium. According to the BVET, Japan will probably kill around 50 whales for scientific reasons this year.

Sigrid Lueber, president of the Swiss working group for protection of marine mammals, told swissinfo that many whales killed for scientific reasons are not just used for research.

"Many research whales are also used for food. However, the countries claim that whales eat fish and whaling is used for regulating fish stocks," she said.

The meeting, which kicked off on Monday, has already proved a setback for pro-whaling nations after Iceland's bid to re-enter the organisation was rejected by a majority of IWC members.

Iceland's reinstatement as a voting member had been seen as a crucial step towards gaining pro-whaling nations a simple majority in the IWC.

Buying votes

Japan has come under fire for alleged vote buying, an allegation the Japanese government has repeatedly denied. However, small nations such as Benin, Gabon and Palau have reportedly received Japanese development aid in return for pro-hunting votes.

The vote buying issue is one of the top priorities of the Swiss working group for protection of marine mammals.

"It is very obvious that Japan is buying the votes of small island states and developing countries with economic aid in return for voting in favour of Japan," Lueber said.

"If this continues we will lose our [anti-whaling] majority, but I am not sure whether we will be able to raise the issue here as we are guests in Japan," she continued.

Environmentalists fear the growing numbers in the 48-member organisation could enable Japan to push through long-standing aims such as secret ballots, which would allow nations to vote for whaling without being identified.

by Billi Bierling, Sally Mules and agencies

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