New Zealand Opts To Deal

Who Would Have Guessed?

What do you know? New Zealand is willing to deal and back the compromise plan to reduce the absolute number of whales that are killed.

New Zealand has backed the compromise pact, which would lift the current ban on commercial whaling while reducing the number of whales killed by Japan under the guise of “research”.

NZ had been one of Australia’s staunchest allies in the fight against Antarctic whaling.

But now the country’s whaling commissioner, Sir Geoffrey Palmer, says he’ll support the compromise proposal at the next meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in June, the ABC reports.

Currently, commercial whaling is banned but countries can hunt whales in the name of science. Up to 1900 are killed each year.

Australia wants Japan to stop whaling, but Japan insists that it has the right to hunt whales.

The issue has been stuck in diplomatic limbo and there is an increasing push to find a compromise, alarming conservation groups.

Federal Environment Minister Peter Garrett spoke out against NZ’s support for the compromise proposal.

“I am alarmed and very concerned that NZ would support a proposal that is flawed and represents a huge compromise to pro-whaling nations,” he said.

“Australia cannot support the compromise package now being discussed in the IWC.”

That package was loaded in favour of the whalers, Mr Garrett said.

Well Peter Garrett would say that. In a trade off between numbers and principles, the Australian government wants to hold on to the principles and not trade away anything at all AND have their way. I don’t think that’s how deals work Mr. Garrett.

Of course that being said, this is April Fools day, so who knows if the New Zealand government is really considering this move.

UPDATE: here is an article with a better explanation of the NZ position on the issue.

Former New Zealand prime minister Geoffrey Palmer, who chairs an International Whaling Commission (IWC) group trying to negotiate a deal, said the IWC could fall apart.

“I think there is a big risk of that and I don’t relish it,” Palmer told reporters in Wellington.

“We cannot afford to see the end of the International Whaling Commission because if it comes to an end, there will be no international instrument for protecting the whales.”

It raises the question what happens to the issue of controlling whaling if the IWC were to fold. After years of fruitless wrangling, it may actually be getting to the point where Japan, Norway, Iceland and Russia walk out o the IWC and there would be no agreement whatsoever.

Palmer said he was not confident the opposing sides of the whaling argument could agree on a workable deal, but said it was important they were still talking.

New Zealand Foreign Minister Murray McCully also described a deal as “a long shot” but said it was worth trying.

“All the alternatives to holding these discussions are truly awful,” he said.

Australia has taken a harder line, saying it will take Japan to the International Court of Justice if it does not agree by November to stop hunting in Antarctic waters.

New Zealand said it there was a good chance court action would fail, leaving controls on hunting weaker than ever.

That can’t be good. Here’s another article with some interesting points:

Since there seems to be no way to stop Japan from killing cetaceans (whales, dolphins, and porpoises), the Obama Administration is poised to compromise on commercial whaling in order to secure broader, more effective regulation by the IWC. If Japan chooses to cooperate, that is. Its recent success at thwarting protection for depleted, sashimi-bound Atlantic bluefin tuna during a UN wildlife session does not augur well.

IWC meetings are rancorous affairs at which neither side wins the three-quarters majority needed to change anything. Founded by whaling nations, the IWC was taken over by whaling opponents in the 1980s, since which time Japan has used foreign aid to recruit support from Caribbean and Asian countries. (Dominica dramatically reversed its pro-whaling position last year.)

A three-year effort to reorder the IWC (read the talking points from a recent working session) would create a South Atlantic Sanctuary and beef up conservation efforts to help the world’s biggest mammals cope with oceanic pollution, ship strikes, climate change, and sonic disruption. In an historic compromise, countries that hunt whales could do so along their coasts–and Japan could continue to exploit Antarctic waters–but only under an enforceable legal agreement that the U.S. official said must unquestionably cap whaling “at a significant decrease” below the current fatality rate. “Numbers are key.”

So that means Mr. Obama AND NZ are both on board with the compromise plan. This is interesting because it means it’s up to the UK and Australia to continue with the strident antics at the IWC, but neither seem to have taken into account just what happens after the IWC falls apart.

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