Australia's environment minister has warned tiny South Pacific nations they could be the focus of international outrage if they support a resumption of commercial whaling at an International Whaling Commission summit in June, a news agency reported Wednesday. Environment Minister Ian Campbell gave the warning during a three-day tour of Kiribati, the Marshall Islands and Vanuata where he canvassed for support of Australia's anti-whaling stance.
Campbell said he told Marshall Islands leaders Wednesday that they should think carefully about the consequences of their vote if they oppose a 20-year-old moratorium on commercial whaling at the IWC meeting in the Caribbean nation of St. Kitts and Nevis on June 16-20. "Should the vote go the way of the whalers, which would overturn what I regard as one of the great achievements of the last half of the last century ... this will raise the level of interest to levels I haven't seen since the 1970s," Campbell told reporters in the Marshall Islands, Australian Associated Press reported.
"The outrage that will surge up around the world if the vote goes the wrong way in St. Kitts will force a lot of public attention on those key votes," he said. Campbell said he told this to the Marshall Islands ministers not in a threatening way but as an observation, AAP reported. "I think there'll be a close look at countries like Guatemala, the Marshall Islands ... and Palau, who have a phenomenal conservation record internationally but take an out of character position when they vote at the whaling commission," he said.
Campbell's message came after he failed to persuade Kiribati's leaders to support his cause on Tuesday. At the IWC annual conference in South Korea in June last year, Kiribati supported Japan's continuation of whaling for scientific research but abstained on the question of ending a 1986 moratorium on commercial whaling.
The Marshall Islands and Vanuatu the last stop on Campbell's tour are not IWC members but are reportedly considering signing up. Japan, a leading advocate of a resumption of commercial whaling, sent delegates on a similar tour in recent weeks to garner support. Japan warns that increasing whale numbers will reduce fish stocks.
Australia's lobbying mission comes after reports last week that pro-whaling forces look set to win a majority on the IWC when it meets in June. While a simple majority would not be enough to overturn current whaling bans, anti-whaling forces have warned it could lead to policy changes that could undermine a protective regime.
Campbell has said the next IWC meeting is crunch time for the future of whales, which should be protected through a global moratorium on commercial whaling and from so-called scientific whaling. Both Japan and Iceland take whales for scientific research then sell the carcasses commercially. Critics including Australia argue the scientific justification for whaling is a sham. Norway ignores the moratorium and openly conducts commercial whaling, reports the AP.