The Australian Minister for the Environment and Heritage, Senator Ian Campbell, will lead an Australian delegation to the 58th annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) commencing this weekend in the Caribbean.

Leaving today for St Kitts and Nevis in the Caribbean, Senator Campbell said the meeting of 70 nations was critical for countries, like Australia, that were committed to whale conservation.

“Pro-whaling nations will be seeking to gain a simple majority at the meeting and using that majority to legitimise so-called ‘scientific’ whaling and mount a gradual return to commercial whaling,” Senator Campbell said.

“We cannot underestimate the challenge ahead of us. This year could see pro-whaling nations turning back the clock on whale conservation, as they warned last year.

“After a narrow win by pro-conservation nations at last year’s IWC, another tough battle is ahead with this year’s meeting likely to be the most difficult yet.

“The outcome of the meeting will hang on just one or two votes.

If pro-whaling nations have a majority at the meeting, they could force votes in favour of:

  • the resumption of commercial whaling
  • more support for scientific whaling
  • meetings becoming a ‘closed shop’ with non-government organisations shut out
  • secret ballots and the removal of transparency from the decision-making process
  • the removal of whale conservation work from the IWC agenda

“We are very concerned that pro-whaling nations could achieve a simple majority for the first time since the moratorium on commercial whaling came into force in 1986,” Senator Campbell said.

“While a three-quarters majority is required for a resumption of commercial whaling — and this is not likely to happen immediately — pro-whaling nations could make some significant inroads towards a move back to the days when the random slaughter of whales was commonplace.

“The Australian Government will fight strongly against any moves to resume commercial whaling and legitimise scientific whaling.”

“At this weekend’s meeting I will be working hard to stop the pro-whaling nations from turning the IWC into a forum that is simply a rubber stamp for whale harvesting.

“The meeting will be tough — I don’t deny that. The balance of votes between the pro-conservation and pro-whaling blocs is knife-edged.

“This weekend’s IWC discussions will be just part of a battle that will extend beyond this meeting.

“I will continue the fight until we are successful in seeing this unnecessary slaughter of whales relegated to history where it belongs,” he said.