22 June 2005

Whale watching beats slaughter

Anti-whaling nations were jubilant on Wednesday over the vote against a Japanese-backed move to resume commercial hunting of the marine mammals, but environmentalists warned Tokyo would likely still kill more whales next year.

The International Whaling Commission voted on Tuesday 29-23 to uphold an almost two-decade-old ban on commercial whaling, dealing a setback to Japan, Norway and other nations that favour a resumption.

"We've had a good result, and I just hope the Japanese government has a look at that result and says 'gee, that must be saying something about world opinion' and acts accordingly," said Australian Prime Minister John Howard.

Australia and New Zealand are strongly opposed to commercial whaling but are keen to avoid offending Japan, a major trading partner.

"Japan is a good friend to Australia and will remain so irrespective of our differences on this issue," Howard said.

New Zealand Conservation Minister Chris Carter told National Radio that the vote was a resounding defeat for Japan.

"The vote was never going to be won by Japan but if they won a simple majority they would have had a big diplomatic victory and it would have justified their decision to double the number of whales they intend to take under their so-called scientific programme," Carter said.

A prominent environmentalist in Australia, Greens Sen Bob Brown, also welcomed the vote, but pointed out that Japanese whalers could continue with their annual scientific hunt of whales and called on Canberra to ban them from ports including Hobart on the southern island state of Tasmania.

"It will run a shudder down Tasmanian spines to think that these whale killers are being replenished in Hobart," Brown said in a statement.

Christopher Brown, managing director of Australia's Tourism and Transport Forum, welcomed Tuesday's vote.

"This is a win for cameras over harpoons," he told Australian Broadcasting Corp. "We're delighted that whale watching has triumphed over whale slaughter."

Whale watching is a fast-growing source of tourist revenue in Australia and New Zealand.

In 2003, in Australia alone whale-watching generated about A$270m, according to the International Foundation for Animal Welfare.

Source: www.news24.com


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