Angry over the passage of the conservation initiative, Japanese representatives boycotted several IWC sessions this week. Japan’s whaling commissioner Minoru Morimoto said today that the anti-whaling position of the U.S. delegation to the IWC was disappointing.
“We are particularly unhappy at the attitude of the U.S. delegation," Morimoto said. "After receiving their quota for bowhead whales at the special meeting of the commission last October they have resumed an excessively strong position against Japan's reasonable proposal for whaling to satisfy the needs of our coastal communities and our research programs that continue to provide valuable scientific information.”
Conservationists are delighted with the newly approved Berlin Initiative that establishes a Conservation Committee. "Campaigners fighting for the survival of whales and dolphins around the world will remember Berlin 2003 as a historic turning point," said the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW).
Dr. Chris Tuite of IFAW, said, "This is a landmark decision for whales. After years of discussion about whaling quotas, we look forward to constructive discussion, research and the implementation of proactive measures for whale protection."
The new conservation committee will address threats to whales such as the impact of marine pollution, collisions with shipping, climate change and accidental bycatch in fishing nets. WWF, the conservation organization, reported last week that up to 306,000 cetaceans die in fishing nets around the world every year.
But 17 pro-whaling IWC member nations delivered a letter to the commission at the close of the meeting today that threatens to split the body in two. “We are deeply concerned that adoption of the Berlin Initiative which establishes a conservation committee will essentially destroy the already polarized and dysfunctional IWC,” said the statement. They consider the Berlin Initiative “an attempt to change the fundamental objectives” and “an attempt to subvert the purpose” of the organization.
“The Berlin Initiative, together with the lack of progress in completing the Revised Management Scheme for the resumption of sustainable whaling, has provoked an increased interest in examination of alternatives that would provide for the sustainable use of abundant whale resources,” the pro-whaling nations state.
The statement was signed by the IWC
Commissioners from Antigua and Barbuda,
Benin, Dominica, Gabon, Grenada, Republic of
Guinea, Iceland, Japan, Mongolia, Norway, Palau,
Panama, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent
and the Grenadines, Senegal and Solomon Islands.