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UK could be forced to pay half a million for commercial whaling

THE London-based Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) today revealed that proposals to resume commercial whaling under the International Whaling Commission (IWC) for a 10-year period could cost European tax payers more than £5.6 million.

A document posted to the IWC’s website last week outlined basic costs for setting up a Monitoring, Control and Surveillance Scheme (MCSS) in the event that the IWC agrees the plan to allow commercial whaling by Japan, Norway and Iceland.

The cost of the scheme is estimated at £1,290,385 per year, with first year start-up costs of £173,000. These costs do not include sightings surveys to gather vital data necessary for the calculation of so-called ‘safe’ catch limits. The proposal to resume commercial whaling will come before IWC member governments when they meet in Agadir, Morocco, in two weeks.

At present, the total income paid by membership fees amounts to about £1,533,000, which contributes to the various costs associated with the operation of the IWC and its programmes. The estimated cost for commercial whaling by just three of the 88 IWC members could almost double membership fees.

Apportioning costs has been one of the most controversial issues in previous IWC discussions about the management of whaling, with whaling countries refusing to shoulder the majority of the burden. If the additional costs are divided between member countries at the percentage rate they currently pay in membership fees, the UK would have to give an extra £52,876 per year, amounting to more than half a million for the 10-year period.

EU member countries together paid £672,235 in membership fees in 2009, some 43.9 per cent of the total. If costs were split in this way, the EU would be paying an additional £565,846 per year for 10 years.

EIA Senior Campaigner Clare Perry said: “In these harsh economic times, the cost of the Monitoring, Control and Surveillance Scheme is reason enough for the EU members of the IWC to reject the Chair’s proposal to permit Japan, Norway and Iceland’s commercial whaling.”

European citizens should be particularly concerned since the proposal actually expands whaling in Europe. The proposed catch limits for Norway and Iceland are above present average catch levels, substantially so in Iceland’s case. Particularly alarming is that Iceland is negotiating to become a full member of the EU by 2012; if it joins with a legitimate IWC whaling quota, it may well be exempted from the Habitats Directive with respect to the ban on whaling in European waters, and so bring commercial whaling into
the whaling-free EU.

“Iceland has a negligible domestic demand for whale meat and under the plan would be allowed to kill 80 fin whales each year.” said Perry. “European tax payers would be paying for one company in Iceland to get rich by killing the second largest animal on the planet.”

EIA is concerned that the additional cost of monitoring whaling would detract from current efforts to focus on the conservation of whales. The Chair’s proposal promises that during the 10-year period “many new, positive conservation and management benefits will be introduced”. However, it is likely that many member countries will baulk at paying additional fees on top of the monitoring scheme, and may even try to shift funds from ongoing conservation-focused efforts towards calculating catch quotas and other whaling-related work.

Far from bringing whaling under control, the proposal throws a financial lifeline to an environmentally disastrous and unsustainable industry. Now it is clear that it will also cost a great deal of money, diverting already scarce resources from vital whale conservation. For taxpayers in the UK and other European countries fundamentally opposed to commercial whaling, this would be a bitter pill to swallow.

“This is a great deal for three whaling countries that have ignored and abused the decisions of the IWC for more than 25 years,” said Perry. “Unless Europe unites to strongly reject this proposal, we will lose our best chance of consigning commercial whaling to the history books where it belongs.”

Interviews and images are available on request: please contact Clare Perry, EIA Senior Campaigner, at [email protected] or telephone +34 664348821, or Jennifer Lonsdale, at [email protected] or telephone 07778 186785.

 

EDITORS’ NOTES

1. The Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) is a UK-based Non Governmental Organisation and charitable trust (registered charity number 1040615) that investigates and campaigns against a wide range of environmental crimes, including illegal wildlife trade, illegal logging, hazardous waste, and trade
in climate and ozone-altering chemicals.

2. The 62nd Annual Meeting of the IWC takes place in Agadir, Morocco from June 15 and will discuss a ‘Proposed Consensus Decision to Improve the Conservation of Whales’ from Chairman Cristián Maquieira and Vice- Chairman Anthony Liverpool.

3. The IWC’s so-called “peace plan” seeks to set “sustainable” annual catch limits for 2011-20, claiming they are “substantially below present levels”. In total, during the 10-year period, Japan would be allowed 3,000 Southern Ocean minke whales, 65 endangered Southern Ocean fin whales, 1,200 coastal and 400 offshore North Pacific minke whales, 120 North Pacific Bryde’s whales and 500 North Pacific sei whales; Iceland could take 800 North Atlantic fin whales and 800 North Atlantic minke whales; and Norway could take 6,000 North Atlantic minke whales. Iceland would benefit from a 200 per cent increase in fin whales and a 52 per cent increase in minke whales, compared to actual current catches calculated as an average of the last five years’ catches.

4. Some EU countries (eg, Denmark and Sweden) are supporting the Chair’s proposal that would legitimise commercial whaling by these three countries. The UK Government is strongly opposed. Because the EU votes as a bloc, Denmark, Sweden and others are threatening to block the consensus needed for the EU to reject the proposal, which would potentially allow the proposal to be adopted.

 

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