So the Japanese Government has confirmed that its diverting much needed relief monies to help the Antarctic industrial whaling fleet.
The government is using ¥2.3 billion from a supplementary budget for tsunami reconstruction to fund its annual whaling. The Southern whaling expedition left Shimonoseki, Yamaguchi Prefecture, Japan on Tuesday.
I guess if I was any country or individual that has donated money to the disaster relief efforts in Japan, I might wish to ask for my money back. This is putting politics and ideology before rebuilding and possibly misrepresenting what donors meant their monies to go to.
So the Japanese Government has confirmed that its diverting much needed relief monies to help the Antarctic industrial whaling fleet.
For those of us based in Europe these are difficult days. The Euro crisis is not only incapacitating the EU in implementing EU environmental legislation (see the recent web postings on Morgan), but it’s also allowing what may appear to some as ideological attacks against this very same EU law and policy to go unchecked.
In the UK, the Coalition Government has put us on notice that it will not allow EU wildlife legislation to stand in the way of economic development. Gone are the days of the UK’s Prime Minister cuddling huskies and now in comes the might of the Treasury with a flame-thrower to the very protective measures that have brought some respite to our increasingly devastated oceans and wildlife.
We are, to say the least, in shock that the Coalition Government is considering reviewing the implementation of the EU Birds and Habitats Directives in England simply to create less of a burden on new developments. It is almost as if some ideologues are taking this period of uncertainty and austerity to pull down all the legislation that they have felt stood in the way of exploiting the marine environment for the last few decades.
In his Autumn Statement the UK’s Chancellor stated “If we burden [British businesses] with endless social and environmental goals – however worthy in their own right – then not only will we not achieve those goals, but the businesses will fail, jobs will be lost, and our country will be poorer."
The Chancellor denounced the burden of 'endless social and environmental goals' on industry and went onto say, "we will make sure that gold plating of EU rules on things like Habitats aren’t placing ridiculous costs on British businesses."
The UK’s Habitats Regulations, which implement the EU’s Habitats and Species Directive, were brought into place by a Conservative Government in 1994 and have been a foundation stone on which protection for whales and dolphins and other marine life has depended. The UK is already the most lax implementer of the Directive and any dilution of the current law can only mean more loss of marine habitat and the diminishing number of whales and dolphins around the coast.
But maybe we should have seen this coming. A few weeks ago we saw the Liberal Democrat Minister Chris Huhne give permission for the start of exploratory drilling in the Atlantic Frontier, despite the fact that the EU has suggested that stricter environmental controls should be considered after the spill in the Gulf.
WDCS understands that Defra are now to undertake a review of the Habitat Regulations but we are greatly concerned that this will allow for every Tom, Dick and Harry with a grudge to bear to get their knives into the legislation. At a time when oil companies and other developers are arguing that they should not be facing restrictions, this will be a field day for their lobbyists.
WDCS believes that Defra now have a responsibility to champion the environment and show that the long term value of protecting our marine and natural environment is as important as the short term gains that come from opening up these last few frontiers to exploitation.
Link to the Defra review
Congratulations to the US federal judge who, for the second time in less than six months, has thrown out a lawsuit by the Alaskan State challenging an endangered species listing, this time involving Cook Inlet's beluga whales.
Alaskan state officials were reported to have been concerned that recovery efforts for belugas could threaten oil and gas development and shipping in the Inlet.
It appears that Escopeta Oil Co., which recently announced a major gas discovery in Cook Inlet, had intervened in the lawsuit on the side of the state against the US Government's listing of the belugas as endangered
"We maintain that the listing process was defective because it did not sufficiently involve the state or consider the conservation measures already in place to protect Cook Inlet belugas," a representative of the state said.
But in his ruling, the federal judge took note of the state's conservation measures and rejected them as inadequate.
"Ultimately, whatever conservation efforts were already being made by the state ... clearly had not demonstrated a degree of effectiveness sufficient to alleviate concern over the small population size in Cook Inlet, since the population had shown no signs of recovery and was indeed continuing to decline," the judge wrote in his decision.
So from everyone at WDCS congratulations to all those who campaigned to maintain the protected status of the belugas and congratulations to the US Government for getting this one right
Read more on this story
Several years ago I was watching a documentary on North Korea and I am afraid that I had to stop watching. It was not the usual story of abuse of human rights, or the kidnapping of Japanese nationals - all terrible in their own right,- it was the image of small children starving.
I had not long become a dad myself and that certain something had clicked inside where cruelty to children was no longer an abstract crime, but was now a gut-wrenching, breath-taking reality. I think some of you will know what I mean.
Well it appears that despite the fact that the nation of North Korea has millions of starving children and declining agricultural production, their self appointed leader can still afford to import dolphins for his own amusement.
The contrast in Kim Jong-il's priorities should escape no one.
WDCS joined this week with the Humane Society of the United States and Defenders of Wildlife to sue the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) for continuing to allow fisheries that it manages to injury and kill endangered whales, like the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale.
“In an increasingly busy ocean, the survival and recovery of the North Atlantic right whale depends on protecting each individual from entanglement-related injuries and deaths,” said WDCS's Regina Asmutis-Silvia.
The lawsuit points out, “Each year, critically endangered North Atlantic right whales and endangered humpback, fin, and sei whales become entangled in commercial fishing gear. In these incidents, fishing line wraps around whales’ heads, flippers, or tails, often impending basic movement, feeding, and reproduction, causing infection, and sometimes preventing the animals from resurfacing, resulting in drowning.”
It also notes that so far this year “there have been at least seven new right whale entanglements, ten new humpback entanglements, and at least two right whales have died from entanglement-related injuries.”
We shall let you know how the case progresses.
Our congratulations also this week to the UK's FCO. A WDCS and AWI team busted the sale of whale meat at Iceland's Keflavik International Airport. Prompt action by the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) to remind UK citizens that purchasing whale meat and attempting to import it into the UK and Europe would be an offence led to the Icelandic authorities withdrawing the whale products from the airport shop.
Okay, so now I have seen everything.
Japan, devastated by the tsunami and earthquake, reeling after Fukushima, is going to spend even more money on subsidizing its whaling fleet. ABC is reporting that around an additional 2 billion yen will be put into the overall support (some estimates put it at the equivalent of Aus$40 million) for the loss making fleet.
And the reasons reported for this. Japan does not wish to loose face in being seen to give into opposition to its whaling policy.
So Japanese people will suffer, areas of Japan will be rebuilt later, just because Japan cannot get over a cultural hurdle? What is so stupid is that the disasters of the last year are the perfect excuse for Japan to save face and get out of this preposterous business once and for all.
But no, Japan's pride in its unnecessary whaling is so important, that it must be put before the safety and future of millions of Japanese, many of who care little about whaling or are unaware of the global opinion about Japan's renegade whaling.
Yep, now I have seen everything.
It seems that what some of us have been saying for some time is slowly dawning on some of the proponents of whaling.
If you want healthy oceans, we need many more whales and dolphins.
The Icelandic newspaper Morgunblaðið reports that Örnólfur Thorlacius has questioned the issue of whether whales are eating all the fish, a popular myth postulated by proponents of whaling to ensure the continuance of government support, in the form of both political and taxpayers money, for the continuation of an outmoded industry.
In an article entitled 'Can we lose the whale from the food chain' the author questions why it is that with so many whales removed by whaling, the oceans are not teeming with life, pointing to work in the southern hemisphere that shows whales are integral to the heath of the oceans.
So Icelanders, you may be weakening the future of your own fishing industry by the insistence of a few individuals that whaling continues. It seems that the many will pay the price for the gain of a few rich individuals. And there was me, thinking that Icelanders had learned that lesson in the last few years.
All the discussion of the economic problems in the global economy is annoying. Not because there is not a problem, but because I feel that the media can sometimes move from 'reporting the issues' to 'hyping the gloom'. Just look how the markets react to the latest media reports on rumours and suggestions of countries defaulting on their loans. Now it may well be about to happen, but some reports seem to help it on its way by causing such gloom that it becomes a component of causation. I am sure the Greek Government would like people to stop stating that 'its going to default on its debt', as every published article or news piece seems to add another percentage point to its repayment costs - and so hasten the default.
Unfortunately it also happens in the whaling debate. Recently in Brussels it was reported that a member of the EU Commission seemed to be telling other colleagues and MEPs that the 'IWC needs fixing before it falls apart'. This is the kind of thing we hear when people are badly briefed and think that, they, despite all the efforts of others, can 'fix the problem'.
What plank of logic this is based on I don't know. Yes the whaling interests in Norway, Japan and Iceland have worked hard to create the image of a 'dsyfunctional IWC', but its their actions that has made the IWC a difficult place to work in. The conservation-led countries don't need to hype the problems, they need to help stop the whaling interests making it worse. The EU should definately not give the whalers what they want because its the 'easy option' or because its seen as a way of 'fixing' the IWC.
It's like rewarding a screaming drunk with another bottle of booze, after everyone has said its cannot have any more because its bad for them and those around them. But the drunk is stuck in the past and like a badly behaving child, will rant and flail until they get what they want. Some justify giving in by saying its the only solution (for an easy life), because otherwise the drunk will go and smash their way into the off-licence and take the booze themselves. So they break the rules, they bend the rules, - 'because what else can they do?'
Well there is a lot they can do. And they can start by listening to those who understand the history of the whaler's manoeurverings in the IWC, and not the panicked calls of a few bureaucrats. If they are not extremely careful, their ignorance of the issue will deliver the whalers all they want, and more.
When people start believing the hype they can make mistakes. The EU Commission needs to think carefully about where its getting its briefings from and Member States should not give into the rhetoric coming from some about a 'dyfunctional' IWC, - else they may well just help create one.
Two months after the US Secretary of Commerce recommended that the US take strong action against Icelandic whaling, President Obama issued a strongly worded statement that fires a warning shot across Iceland’s bows if its fin whaling does not stop for good.Although the President did not go as far as WDCS and its follow NGOs hoped by imposing trade sanctions on Iceland, he directed his administration to review its diplomatic relationship with Iceland, potentially including cancelling meetings with Icelandic officials and withdrawing funding for joint projects in the Arctic.
Iceland did not undertake any fin whaling this summer, blaming reduced markets in Japan following the tsunami in March, but it has given no indication that its aggressive policy on fin whaling has changed. If Iceland resumes fin whaling, President Obama has sought an immediate report from his officials, suggesting that the door remains open for punitive economic measures against Iceland by the US in the future.
In late 2010, WDCS co-authored an 80+ page petition to the US government that set out how Iceland is undermining the effectiveness of both the International Whaling Commission (IWC) and Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) by its ongoing whaling and international trade in whaling products in defiance of international bans.
The petition, which identified whaling-related commercial targets for sanctions in Iceland, was supported by nineteen other US conservation and animal welfare groups. Together, in recent weeks, we have collectively rallied hundreds of thousands of US citizens to send emails, faxes and letters to the President calling for sanctions.
Although we are disappointed that Iceland is not facing trade sanctions for its fin and minke whaling, we believe our months of effort paid off; the petition and your messages of support reached the President’s desk and he took us seriously. WDCS remains optimistic that strong action by the US will help bring an end to Icelandic whaling and trade.We expect to receive a response from the Department of Interior next month to the part of the petition related to Iceland’s trade in whale products.
I wrote today on the WDCS website that WDCS welcomed the UK's recommendation to Europe to establish an SAC for the Dogger Bank. I have to say that I have a lot of time for the UK Environment Minister, Richard Benyon and his civil servant team, but I sometimes wonder at the advice that they receive.
Speaking truth to power is the responsibility of NGOs, but its also the responsibility of the statutory agencies that we trust to look after the interests of the wildlife and natural environment around us. I do wonder however if those who have the ear of government sometimes get too many political signals from, I don't know, initiatives like the UK's Red Tape Challenge. For the next three weeks the Red Tape Challenge (RTC) will be focusing on the 287 environmental regulations that apply to businesses, covering issues such as waste, emissions and wildlife protection and inviting members of the public to say which ones should be scrapped if they inhibit business. We have mentioned this initiative before and would urge you to write in an advocate keeping the UK's wildlife protection measures.
It does seem that the political need to not inhibit development, especially developments far out to sea where very few can see the consequences, may mean that Ministers can receive what people think they 'want to hear' and not what 'they need to hear'. It will be interesting to see if the Dogger Bank becomes an area for offshore developments and whether the harbour porpoise would have inhibited any such developments?