For 20 years the world's whales have mostly been left alone by man. Norway, Iceland and Japan, together with some indigenous groups, have been allowed to hunt a few thousand each year on the basis of scientific research, but the global free-for-all that decimated populations in all oceans for more than 100 years ended in 1986 on a wave of revulsion at the way they were killed and concern that stocks would never recover.
That might be about to change. About 35 pro-whaling countries, some of which have no coastline or history of whaling, are expected to gain control of the 66-member International Whaling Commission (IWC), the body which governs the industry.
In a triumph of intensive lobbying led by Japan, they are likely to dismantle the laws that protect whales and prepare the way for the eventual full resumption of commercial whaling.
To the horror of more than 150 large conservation organizations worldwide, the anti-whaling countries led by Britain, New Zealand, Australia and the US, say there is little that can now be done diplomatically to prevent the takeover by pro-whalers at the IWC meeting in St Kitts later this month.
"On paper they certainly now have a majority. I do not think the anti-whalers can hold the line," said Leah Garces, campaigns director of the World Society for the Protection of Animals, on behalf of anti-whaling groups worldwide.
"We could now go back to the 1970s when whales were unprotected throughout the world. This is critical," she said.
"The best we now think is possible is a tie in St Kitts. It looks very serious. We think it will be bloody," said a British official close to the talks.
It has emerged that following a narrow defeat last year at the IWC's meeting in South Korea, Japan went to remarkable lengths to avoid defeat in St Kitts. Last month it convened a secret meeting in Tokyo of pro-whaling countries, including Norway, to prepare tactics and to ensure that many small countries, which traditionally hesitate to go to IWC meetings because of the cost, travel this year to the Caribbean.
Japan is also known to have increased aid to countries such as Belize, Mali, Togo, Gambia and others which have joined the IWC recently but who have so far not voted.
Earlier this year it pledged more than US$1 million to the Pacific island of Tuvalu, a pro-whaling IWC member, and has reached similar deals with Nauru and Kiribati and other desperately poor countries in the Pacific. Last week it is believed to have offered a large aid package to other Pacific countries. It has also invited the heads of state of seven African countries and eight Caribbean and central American countries to visit Tokyo in the last year. All are expected to vote with Japan at St Kitts.
At least US$300 million was given last year to Antigua, Dominica, Grenada, Panama, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, and St Kitts and Nevis. Much of the aid has been ostensibly to develop their fishing industries, but Japan traditionally stresses that whales are responsible for low fish catches.
A Japanese government official, who asked not to be named, denied that Tokyo had negotiated aid packages at the meeting last month but admitted there had been discussions of "logistics," such as how to ensure that poorer pro-whaling countries showed up in St Kitts.
British diplomats said last night that they feared they had lost the battle to secure more anti-whaling votes.
New Zealand's conservation minister, Chris Carter, last month toured the Pacific, visiting the Solomons, Kiribati and Nauru requesting them to change their mind, but was rebuffed.
"It looks increasingly likely that the pro-whaling nations will achieve a majority on the commission for the first time," Carter said.
"At the moment we will take anyone," said a British diplomat close to the talks. "We have been singularly unsuccessful in the Caribbean. The Gambia might think twice if it was pointed out that their tourists might not like the fact that they are going to vote with whalers, but it's not looking good."
Anti-whaling countries now expect Japan to select the body's next chairman and vice-chairman and to make key procedural changes such as the introduction of secret ballots.
An immediate return to commercial whaling, which would require 75 percent of the votes, is unlikely for five years, said a British government official.
"The first steps of the pro-whaling groups will be to disband the IWC's conservation committee. It will then overturn the commission's formal condemnation of Japan's scientific whaling program, which exploits the loophole in the moratorium to hunt for whales," one observer said.
The Japanese foreign ministry official said he was unaware of any proposal by Tokyo to abolish the conservation committee.
Even though commercial whaling could be technically possible within a few years, there is now little demand for the meat. Japan's meat from expeditions ends up in restaurants and supermarkets, and there are plans to start selling it cheaply to schools and hospitals.
Norway traditionally has not been able to sell all the whale meat it gets from its hunt and sends some to Japan.
Junichi Sato, campaign director of Greenpeace Japan, conceded that a pro-whaling coup at the IWC would be "a disaster." He said the introduction of secret ballots would enable smaller countries, particularly Caribbean islands, to vote with Japan on every issue without fear of alienating the US, another major aid donor.
"It would certainly lead to more votes for Japan," he said.
Unless Hollywood movies like Greenland, Deep Impact, and Armageddon have predictive powers and a rogue space rock is heading our way, stopping Chinese Communist Party expansionism is likely to prove the single most challenging and dangerous problem of our lifetimes. How can the United States, Taiwan, and other liberal democracies prepare for and prevent attacks from China? How can Washington bolster Taipei’s confidence when it doesn’t recognize Taiwan as a real country and, so far, lacks the political will to make major adjustments to its ossified China policy and Taiwan policy? How can Taiwan make itself heard on the world stage when
Hypersonic weapons are defined as armaments capable of traveling at speeds faster than Mach 5 and can be broadly classified into two types: hypersonic glide vehicles (HGV) and hypersonic cruise missiles. The former are launched into the upper atmosphere by ballistic missiles. The vehicle is then separated from the booster to maneuver, or glide, toward its target. The latter can be launched from a jet plane or rocket to reach supersonic speed before igniting a scramjet engine to achieve hypersonic speeds. As the US engages in a great-power competition with China and Russia, all three countries are racing to field hypersonic
The number of people emigrating from Hong Kong has been rapidly increasing, Hong Kong Census and Statistics Department data show, with the territory’s population dropping by 110,000 people from 2019 to this year. China’s imposition of a National Security Law has clearly triggered a massive population outflow. However, not only people but also foreign businesses are leaving Hong Kong. For example, Vanguard Group, the world’s second-largest asset management company, VF Corp and Sony Interactive Entertainment have moved their top regional management from Hong Kong to Singapore. LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton, the world’s largest luxury goods company, has also relocated staff
Double Ten Day, Oct. 10 every year, is an important day for Taiwan, as it marks the Republic of China’s (ROC) National Day. Major holidays are usually a time for celebration and commemorative activities, but among all the clamor and excitement, Double Ten reflects one essential fact: that Taiwan is still not a normalized society. As usual, there was a large parade in front of the Presidential Office Building, displaying to the world Taiwan’s social diversity and its soft and hard power, and President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) gave an address, relaying her message to the nation and to the world, while the