CITES Backs IWC Commercial Whaling Moratorium
Japan and Norway Continue to be Rogue Outlaw Whalers

In a report from Geneva today, Willem Wijnstekers, secretary general of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), told a news conference CITES could not undermine the 53-nation International Whaling Commission, whose job is to ensure the conservation of whale populations.

Japan had called for a lifting of the ban on commercial whaling. CITES rejected the Japanese request.

"As long as the International Whaling Commission maintains a zero-catch quota for commercial reasons in its management of minke whales, then the best way to coordinate that level of protection within CITES is by maintaining the species in appendix I," Wijnstekers said.

Appendix I lists species that are threatened with extinction and whose trade is generally prohibited by CITES.

On May 11, Japan asked CITES to downgrade the protection of three stocks of minke whale from Appendix I to Appendix II, a list of species in which closely controlled trade is permitted.

Japan officially stopped commercial whaling in 1986 after withdrawing its objection to the global moratorium on commercial whaling imposed by the International Whaling Commission (IWC).

But it began what it calls "research" whaling in 1987, using a loophole in the moratorium that permits the hunting of whales for scientific research purposes.

Japan slaughters about 700 large whales a year in the name of this "research," including animals taken on a summer whaling voyage to the North Pacific which targets endangered sei whales.

The meat from the "research" cull, about 2,000 tons annually, ends up in supermarkets and restaurants across Japan.

Norway does not even pretend to conduct research whaling and plans to kill over 1,000 whales in 2004.

Captain Paul Watson responded to the news from Geneva today with a statement sent from the conservation research ship Farley Mowat presently patrolling the waters around the Galapagos National Park Marine Reserve.

"Norway is holding the rule of international law in complete contempt and Japan is fooling no one. Both these nations are involved in illegal whaling, and the government of Norway and Japan are complicit in this criminal behavior. Japan and Norway behave like they are above international conservation law. If international regulatory bodies are unable and unwilling to enforce the law, then perhaps it is time once again for non-governmental organizations and concerned individuals to uphold the law in accordance with the principles of the United Nations World Charter for Nature."

The 164 countries who are signatories to CITES are due to hold their annual review of the rules on protecting whales, along with those covering some 5,000 other animal and 28,000 plant species, at a conference in Bangkok, Thailand, starting on October 12.