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(CMC) – Japan has welcomed the decision of several Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries to support the re-commencement of whaling, but has declined to state whether such support at the International Whaling Commission (IWC) meeting, in Brazil last month, is linked to the region’s support for Tokyo at the international forum.
At the meeting in Brazil, most IWC members rejected Tokyo’s “Way Forward” proposal, which, observers say, aimed to undermine the existing 30-year ban on commercial whaling.
Despite the support of the host nation Brazil and other key nations, there was not enough support to create a South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary, which would have prevented Japanese whalers from hunting in the South Atlantic Ocean under what they say is a “scientific” whaling programme.
Conservationists — such as Greenpeace and Sea Shepherd — say that Japan’s activities in the Southern Ocean amounts to commercial whaling.
The proposed ban garnered a majority of vote but not the super-majority it needed to take effect. But conservationists have accused Tokyo of using its economic might to influence the vote of many smaller nations such as those in the Caribbean, most of which do not have a whaling culture, or even advocate whale watching as part of their tourism product.
Japan has donated a number of fisheries complexes to Caribbean countries and has paid for the rehabilitation of the small whale-processing plant in Semple Cay, located off Bequia, the largest of the Grenadine islands.
“I won’t say whether our support is linked or not,” Daisuke Nakano, Tokyo’s director, Mexico, Central America and Caribbean Division, said Monday.
“But from the socio-economic need of each Caribbean country, the government of Japan has been deciding and going forward, also, including St. Vincent and the Grenadines…, fisheries and whaling-related assistance were included,” he added.
Bequia whalers killed just one of the 1,380 whales landed around the world in 2017.
The IWC permits the island’s whalers to kill four humpback whales every year, as part of their aboriginal sustenance culture.
However, they hardly ever exhaust the quota, and often go for years without a single catch as they pursue whales using sails boats and hand-held harpoons, as they have been doing since whaling was first introduced to St. Vincent and the Grenadines about a century and half ago.
When a whale is caught, the meat is used as food across the entire island chain, its oil is used in traditional medicine for humans and animals, and the bones and teeth are used in jewellery and for decorations.
Earlier this month, St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves signed a US$3.5 million agreement for the construction of a Black Fish Facility in Barrouallie, a whaling town on St. Vincent’s western coast.
In Barrouallie, whalers traditionally catch pilot whales, but have also killed orcas (killer whales), much to the condemnation of local and international observers.