Number 1, 24 June 1996
Coverage of the
International Whaling Commission's
1996 Annual Meeting
June 23-28, Aberdeen, Scotland
About ECO

 

Whale Meat Smuggler On Norway's Delegation?

Several nations are expressing astonishment that the Norwegian government
has on its official delegation Steinar Bastesen, the notorious whaler who
has been implicated in whale meat smuggling.

The outspoken head of the Norwegian Whalers' Association--he once boasted
that "I'm going to eat whale meat until I puke"--has regularly embarrassed
Norway with his antics. Three years ago, for example, his company, Bastesen
Fishing Corp., was caught red-handed shipping 2.9 metric tons of whale meat
to Japan via South Korea in boxes labelled "frozen prawns." And Norwegian
news media report he may be implicated in another smuggling scandal earlier
this year when six tons of whale meat -- this time in boxes marked "frozen
mackerel" -- were smuggled from Norway to Japan.

This second smuggling attempt was a little more sophisticated than the
first. That one failed when one of the "frozen prawns" cartons broke open
at Oslo airport and a customs inspector found inside bloody meat rather
than pink prawns. When the latest illegal whale meat shipment was found in
Yokohama last April, the slabs of whale meat were carefully covered with
frozen mackerel, apparently to avoid a repeat of the case of the observant
inspector and the damaged carton.

Although the smugglers are getting a bit smarter--the whale meat got all
the way to Japan this time, even passing through Germany, Vietnam and
Taiwan on the way--Japanese authorities are apparently even smarter. It
doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize that shipping a cheap fish like
mackerel half way around the world via several ships and ports is
suspicious. The shipping costs alone exceeded the value of the 10 tons of
mackerel listed in the bill of lading.

All this stupidity and illegality raises questions about another player in
this mystery: the Norwegian government. Why hasn't the government gotten to
the bottom of this smuggling scandal? Is it too difficult to identify who
in Norway violated Norwegian, Japanese and international laws? A Bastesen
associate, Willy Nilsen, has been directly implicated in both smuggling
cases. Is the government unable to police the mountain of stored meat and
blubber that has virtually no value in Norway but would fetch tens of
millions of dollars in Japan?

Is Norwegian prime minister Gro Brundtland so beholden politically to the
defiant fishing villages of Nordland that she has allowed Steinar Bastesen
to be the dictator of Norway's policy of outlaw whaling and tolerance of
smuggling?


Narrow Minds In The High North

Rainforest people in Brazil and drought-hit Ethiopians will suffer to
protect Norwegian whaling if the officials of Moskenes county have their
way. Geir Wulff-Nilsen, a former leader of the High North Alliance, and now
mayor of the Moskenes Municipal Council, is leading a campaign to stop
participation of several coastal counties in the 1996 edition of a
television fund-raising event which raises money for good causes,
especially in the developing world. Last year the Nordland area, of which
Moskenes is a part, raised a record 7 million kronor; this year the
donations are slated to go to environmental causes.

Ten percent of the money will be used for environmental projects in Norway,
fifteen percent for projects in Eastern Europe--including safe storage of
nuclear waste on Russia's Kola peninsula. The other three quarters will be
used in different countries in Asia, Africa and South America. Protection
of rainforest in Brazil and providing food to people in famine-stricken
areas of Ethiopia are two of the projects. But funding for these projects
is now being held hostage over a dispute about whaling.

The funds for the projects are to be administered by five Norwegian
environmental groups: Naturvernforbundet (Friends of the Earth), Fremtiden
i vaare hender, Regnskogsfondet (the Rainforest Foundation), Utvikings
Foundet (the Development Fund), and WWF Verdens Natureford. Only WWF has
a position against the ongoing whaling, and they have specified that all of
the funds they administer will go directly to the projects. None will be
used in any connection with whales or whaling.

But Wulff-Nilsen is demanding that WWF Norway make a statement that they
are not opposed to whaling as a condition for his supporting the
fundraising event. He is quoted in the newspaper Lofotposten saying "...if
WWF opposes whaling we will have problems in supporting fundraising...".
High North Alliance secretary Georg Blichfeldt has been active in
circulating copies of letters from WWF Norway to Moskenes and calling
attention to what he describes as "new signals" in relation to WWF's
whaling policy contained in these letters.

Ironically, as the pro-whaling campaigners pile pressure on the WWF, the
whaling business itself is faltering. Lack of demand for whale meat in
Norway means that much of this year's catch could find no buyers, and the
Fish Sales Association has had to step in with subsides. The whalers are
now demanding to be allowed to export their products to Japan in the hope
of cashing in on its lucrative market for whale meat.

The chairwoman of the fundraising event in the Nordland area has urged
Moskenes county officials to leave the whaling issue alone and support the
positive projects being proposed. "I have never heard about anybody who has
boycotted the TV fundraising before," she said in the same Lofotposten
article. "Therefore I hope that Moskenes county stops these narrow
protests."

The claims of the whalers to be an oppressed minority look increasingly
hollow as these people, thriving businessmen in one of the richest
countries in the world, use some of the world's poorest people as pawns in
their efforts to expand their business.


Gray Whale Kill Opposition Grows

Rising opposition to whaling within the Makah Indian Tribe threatens to
sink the scheme being promoted by the undemocratic Tribal Council and the
U.S. government.

Seven elders of the Makah Tribe published an open letter last week
attacking the decision-making behind the whaling proposal. "The whale hunt
and other important issues were never brought to the people for a vote, or
simple notification," the elders stated. "We believe the hunt is only for
the money. They can't say 'traditional, spiritual and subsistence' in the
same breath when no training is going on, just talk."

Alberta Thompson, one of the anti-whaling elders, has come to the IWC
meeting to explain the case of the elders and most of the Makah tribe. "Our
Tribal Council did not tell the Makah people that they were thinking of
going whaling," she states. "We want a referendum on a return to whaling."

Thompson, 72, points out that the Tribal Council submitted its whaling
proposal to the U.S. government in a letter dated May 5 1995. A Council
representative attended last year's IWC meeting in Ireland and announced
the intention to begin whaling in 1996. It was only last September that the
Tribal Council brought the issue up on the Makah Reservation. An "advisory
" poll was taken with little notice or debate. The vote of 76 in favor and
28 against comprised only 5 percent of the tribal population. The vote was
not a representative sample.

Isabel Ides, at 96 the oldest Makah, is the only tribal member who
remembers the last whale hunt around 1910. She signed the elders' petition
against whaling because "nobody knows how to eat it anymore. Nobody knows
how to hunt it anymore. There is no need for this."

Her grandson, Frank, speaking for the younger generation, attacked the
Tribal Council. "They say the request to hunt whales is for food and
culture. They just want to hunt to make money. They are going to force this
on the tribe just like they forced the new whiting (fishery) industry on
us. We don't like it. The Tribal Council is not representing us."

Whales and dolphins face new threats in the modern world, less visible, but
just as deadly as the explosive harpoon.

Research by environmental groups warns of an impending environmental
catastrophe facing whales and dolphins. This research shows that the
survival of whales and dolphins--and a host of other marine wildlife--is
threatened by the combined onslaught of pollution, over-fishing, ozone
depletion and now, for the first time, climate change.

The report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), written
by more than 2000 scientists, approved by the United Nations and endorsed
by many governments, has declared that the Earth is getting warmer and that
humans are to blame. The consensus reached by these scientists is
impressive and their predictions are frightening.


A Warmer World

The IPCC has predicted that average global temperatures will increase by
1.5-4.0 degrees Celsius during the next century - a rate of warming greater
than any seen in the last 10,000 years. Sea levels will rise between 15 and
95cm, with a best guess at 50cm. This is four or five times the rate of
rise witnessed over the past century. Climate change will fundamentally
alter the underwater world, robbing cetaceans of vital habitat. The
availability of food will shift and change, water quality will decline and
disease will be facilitated.

Climate change will:

1. The Disappearing Polar Refuge

As temperatures rise, it is anticipated that we will see a reduction of
Arctic ice by around one-third and an extension of the ice-free season from
41 to 100 days.

As the North West passage and Russian North Sea Route become free of ice
for much of the year, the entire Arctic Ocean coastline will further open
up to shipping and extraction industries, particularly oil.

Furthermore, the melting ice will shrink the habitat of krill, the backbone
of the Antarctic ecosystem and exclusive food supply for many whale
species.

As the protective covering of the poles recedes, one of the last refuges
for cetaceans and other marine mammals will be opened for business and food
supplies will be diminished.

Ozone Depletion
At the same time as the ice is beginning to recede, polar food resources
are under threat from increased UV-B radiation entering through the ozone
hole. This radiation has been shown to reduce the phytoplankton growth by
up to 20%.

2. The Ocean Heart Stops

The circulation of the ocean's currents determines both the amount and
distribution of cetaceans' food supply.

But now the very heart of the oceanic circulation system is endangered, as
melting ice threatens to shut off the most powerful force driving the
ocean's currents cycling water from the surface to floor of the sea over
thousands of years. This will alter in unpredictable ways the entire
physical system of the marine environment which cetaceans depend on.

3. Increasing Pollution

As global warming leads to rising sea levels, increased coastal rain and
changes in circulation patterns, existing chronic pollution may become
catastrophic.

In coastal areas riverine input of nutrients, organochlorines and heavy
metals will increase due to increased rainfall. Coastal hazardous waste
sites and sewers will be overwashed, leaching toxins, sewage, bacteria and viruses into the seas. At the same time, wetlands, a natural filtering system of pollution, will be destroyed by a rising sea level.

4. Increasing Toxic Algae Blooms

Climate change will continue to increase the spread and proliferation of
red tides due to warmer water temperatures and greater nutrient loading of
coastal areas.

5. Increasing Disease

Climate change will increase the threat of novel and existing diseases by
augmenting the growth and spread of existing disease agents and increasing
their virulence. It will introduce new viruses, bacteria and parasites to
coastal areas, allow tropical viruses to spread northward as the oceans
warm and make cetaceans more susceptible to disease by increasing
environmental stress.

A Degree Too Much
Climate change will lead to volatile and unpredictable changes. As
nutritional, habitat and health conditions worsen, mass moralities of
cetaceans are expected to increase in sudden and unforeseen areas.

Already we are witness to such events. Soon we may see them threaten the
very existence of some species.

In light of these new and disturbing findings the International Whaling
Commission must ensure that the findings and recommendations of the two
workshops on environmental threats to cetaceans (Bergen and Hawaii) are
fully incorporated into the Scientific Committee and the Commission's
program of work.


Whale Meat (of the crunchy variety)

Apparently Russian subsistence whalers either like crunchy
whale meat, lack lead in their diet or need new glasses. Why else would
hunters use 700 bullets, an assault rifle, plus an anti-tank gun to finish
off a whale which even then manages to elude them for six hours? We suggest
the hunters invest in satellite guided whale-o-cet missiles to improve
their struck/loss and time to death rate.


Korean Gray Whale Killed in Japan

The highly endangered Korean Gray Whale is in an even more precarious
position thanks to aggressive whaling recently off the north coast of
Japan. According to published reports, the Japanese whalers were jubilant
over their good fortune. This gray whale population, protected for decades,
was driven to the brink of extinction early this century. Unless the
remaining Korean Grays are protected from hunting, this generation of
whalers may easily complete the extermination.


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