ST JOHN’S, Antigua – Senator Joanne Massiah is currently in Panama as the alternate commissioner representing Antigua & Barbuda at the plenary session of the 64th annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC).
The conference, which opened Monday, is scheduled to conclude Friday. Monday’s discussions centred on sanctuaries, the IWC in the future and whale stocks.
“The sanctuary issue is highly contentious and is of concern to the countries which subscribe to the principal of the sustainable use of living marine resources – including the OECS states – which all oppose the proposal,” a release from the Office of the Prime Minister said.
“Importantly, the refusal of the proponents of what is, in essence, a scheduled amendment to the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling (ICRW) to engage in meaningful dialogue with countries which oppose their proposals has further fuelled the debate.”
Repeatedly tabled for consideration since 1998, the proposal essentially seeks to create a sanctuary for whales in the South Atlantic Ocean – an area which encompasses vast maritime space – is co-sponsored by Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay and supported by all the anti-sustainable use countries.
The proponents claim that their primary objective is to promote bio-diversity, conservation, the non-lethal use of whales and stimulate the coordinated research activities of developing coastal nations.
However, the objection to the proposal by the pro-sustainable use countries is based on the fact that the Scientific Committee of the IWC has repeatedly stated that there is no ecological justifiable reason for the establishment of such sanctuaries.
This finding was re-enforced in 2004 by a panel of external scientists who, on reviewing a similar proposal for the establishment of the Southern Ocean sanctuary, stated emphatically that the justification proffered by the proponents are inter alia, “based on vague goals and objectives, lack rigorous approach to its design” and have no basis in science.
“Sadly, the proponents have blatantly refused to accept the findings of the Commission’s own scientists on this issue,” the government release noted.
“Further, Antigua & Barbuda highlighted again that presently, no whaling of any kind takes place within the proposed boundaries, that the 1982 moratorium on whaling remains in effect and that there are other far-reaching adverse effects which the proposal would have on the developmental aspirations of developing coastal nations such as, maritime traffic and renewable energy explorations currently ongoing within the southern Caribbean.”