ST JOHN’S, Antigua – The Antigua & Barbuda government has defended its membership in the International Whaling Commission (IWC) and has again backed the Japanese commercial whaling bid.
This year, interest groups urged OECS nations to get out of the IWC since, with the exception of St Vincent & the Grenadines, they do not hunt whales.
Senator Joanne Massiah, alternate IWC commissioner who represented the country at the Panama meeting last week, told OBSERVER Media that the region’s presence at the IWC is necessary.
“Unless we participate in these international meetings we are going to have people far remote from us making decisions about what we can and cannot eat, how we can prepare it and what we can do when they don’t have any vested interest in our country,” Massiah said.
She said Antigua & Barbuda was also supporting the interest of St Vincent & the Grenadines, the only whaling nation in the OECS.
“And as we tend to do in our region, we vote as a bloc. We support each other because issues that concern St Vincent also concern Antigua & Barbuda,” Massiah added.
For the past three years however, Dominica has been abstaining from voting at the IWC, unlike Antigua, which this year again, supported Japan’s pro-whaling stance.
Japan hunts whales for purportedly scientific purposes, which many environmental groups describe as a front for commercial whaling.
Senator Massiah has a different view; she believes the twin island nation’s best interest is represented based on how it votes at the IWC.
“The reason why we support sustainable use is very sound; we are an island nation surrounded by water and I think the issues that surround the marine resources are ones that we have to pay keen attention to,” Massaih said.
“The ocean has historically been a tremendous source of livelihood for a number of people in the region. And I think the fact that we have been able to sustain our management of marine resources speaks well for a developing country,” she added.
The senator has attended every IWC meeting since 2004 and said she is well aware of the issues and was able to represent the interest of the country well.
One of the highlights for her was the nomination of a St Lucia native, Jeannine Compton Antoine, to the chair of the IWC.