Green groups say IWC proposal will see a return to commercial whaling
MARK COLVIN: Environment groups say the International Whaling Commission's proposal to allow some whales to be killed is a return to commercial whaling. The IWC's proposal would let whalers harpoon 400 minke whales and 10 fin whales each year in Antarctic waters. Fin whales are an endangered species and green groups say the only reason their numbers are strong again is because of the ban on commercial whaling. Australia says it won't support the proposal and in a surprise twist New Zealand has also said it won't support it. Brigid Glanville reports from Auckland.
BRIGID GLANVILLE: The next meeting of the International Whaling Commission in Morocco in June was always going to be heated. But today's announcement from the IWC guarantees the debate will be loud and long. Australia is against whaling and is very worried this latest proposal may be supported. The Environment Minister, Peter Garret.
PETER GARRETT: We'll look at the IWC statement carefully but on face value, it falls very well short of any outcome that Australia could ever accept and I repeat what we've said all through this process and that is, that Australia remains resolutely opposed to commercial and so-called scientific whaling. And we will not support a proposal which would sanction commercial whaling and we've put an alternative set of proposals which we think go towards achieving the conservation goals which we believe the IWC nations should set for themselves.
BRIGID GLANVILLE: The IWC proposal would allow 400 minke whales and 10 fin whales to be killed each year in Antarctic waters. Australia wants a proposal that bans whaling for commercial and scientific reasons.
PETER GARRETT: We need to strongly press for no whaling in IWC endorsed sanctuaries. We need to agree on the scientific procedures that underpin all IWC decisions.
BRIGID GLANVILLE: Environmental groups are outraged. The WWF says this proposal endorses the killing of whales in one of the most critical feeding grounds, the Southern Ocean.
Mick McIntyre from Whales Alive says the proposal is flawed. MICK MCINTYRE: This proposal would mean the return to commercial whaling because it clearly is a proposal that would legitimise whaling over a ten year period. To me it's like if you were a parent and you said to your kids, don't worry about, don't worry about us telling you what to do or receiving any discipline. You know, you do what you like for ten years and then we'll come and talk to you about how you went and how, you know, then we'll talk to you about discipline at the end of those ten years. I mean it's, it's a free for all and it's completely legitimising what Japan has been doing in its scientific whaling program. It completely allows them to get away with murder basically. BRIGID GLANVILLE: This is the first time the IWC has put a figure on the numbers of whales it would allow to be killed. The proposal was put forward in an attempt to break the deadlocked debate. Non whaling countries which support it, such as the US, believe a compromise will mean the number of whales killed will be closely controlled. Three weeks ago there was international outrage when New Zealand said it would consider this proposal. But today it says the proposal is offensive and inflammatory. Foreign Affairs Minister, Murray McCully.
MURRAY MCCULLY: The proposal for a consensus decision proposed by the IWC chair and deputy chair today falls seriously short of a basis, of being a basis for diplomatic settlement to the whaling debate. In terms of the specifics, the proposed catch limits for the southern ocean are unrealistic and unacceptable from New Zealand's point of view. The suggestion that there should be a small quota for fin whale is an inflammatory proposal in my view. BRIGID GLANVILLE:
Mick McIntyre from Whales Alive hopes other nations will now follow New Zealand. MICK MCINTYRE: New Zealand's change of heart is very, very welcome. I think commonsense has prevailed with the New Zealand government. They saw the writing on the wall that this was a complete contradiction of the proposal. That all this proposal does is give the whaling countries everything they could possibly want.
BRIGID GLANVILLE: The members of the IWC will decide whether to adopt the proposal at the next meeting in Morocco in June. This is Brigid Glanville in Auckland for PM.