23 Apr 2010

NZ says whaling proposal unacceptable and offensive

11:10 pm on 23 April 2010

The New Zealand Government says a new proposal on whaling by the International Whaling Commission is unacceptable, offensive and a major step backwards.

The proposal, to be voted on at an IWC meeting in Morocco in June, is a 10-year plan to bring all whaling under the control of the divided organisation.

The plan allows Iceland and Norway to continue to hunt whales. It also allows Japanese whaling, but reduces Japan's quota for killing the mammals in the Southern Ocean whale sanctuary and has a quota for endangered fin whales.

Japan's current quota is to kill up to 935 whales in the Antarctic, although this season's catch was down to 507 whales due to action by environmentalists.

Under the IWC proposal, Japan's catch in Antarctica would be reduced to 410 whales next season and 205 in the 2015-16 season.

But the New Zealand Government believes the cuts do not go far enough, saying the numbers of whales actually caught already fall short of the quota, meaning there will be no real reduction in whales killed.

New Zealand's Foreign Affairs Minister Murray McCully says the IWC proposal is inflammatory, offensive and is no basis for negotiations.

"The suggestion that there'd be 400 whales a year taken from the Southern Ocean for the next five years is unrealistic and unacceptable. The idea that we might add a fin whale quota - a small one even - is unacceptable and indeed inflammatory, in my view."

Mr McCully told Checkpoint allowing Japan to continue some whaling in the Southern Ocean is not right.

"We want to see the elimination of whaling in the Southern Ocean. We accept that it might take a little bit of time to get there and that's what this negotiation has been about.

"Evidently, some other countries haven't listened carefully to the sort of position that New Zealand has put forward, and I'm disappointed about that."

If the New Zealand Government does not come up with another proposition acceptable to the IWC, Mr McCully says it will consider taking the issue to the International Court of Justice, as Australia has promised to do.

Greenpeace says the IWC proposal is unacceptable because it does not call an end to all whaling in the Southern Ocean whale sanctuary.

Silent protest outside Parliament

About 200 people gathered outside Parliament on Friday for a mainly silent protest against the IWC's proposal organised by environmental group Greenpeace.

The group's executive director, Bunny McDiarmid, says New Zealand and other pro-conservation countries have a lot of work to do in order to reach the resolution Greenpeace is after.

"We want to see an end to commercial whaling and an end to whaling in the Southern Ocean whale sanctuary, and currently the proposal does not do that.

"It's ridiculous - you can't have a whale sanctuary with whaling going on. And you can't have endangered species being hunted - that makes no sense whatsoever."

Ms McDiarmid and other Greenpeace protesters stood holding black placards in the shape of whale tails in what they called a whale graveyard.