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Jun 16, 2005

Controversy over Belize?s position on whaling

Story PictureThe question of hunting whales will probably never dominate any local talk shows, after all, the only whales we have in Belize are actually sharks. But when it comes to whether or not whales should be hunted in the rest of the world, Belize does have a say. After severe drops in the number of mammals for several threatened species, the International Whaling Commission put a moratorium on the practice. At the time, nine countries were hunting; today there are only two: Norway and Japan, who have continued with the tradition. Every year, members of the I.W.C., including Belize, are asked to vote on whether the ban should be lifted. This year, amid rumours that Japan was paying special interest to Belize’s attendance at the A.G.M. in Korea later this month, local environmentalists, under the umbrella group BACONGO, have come out fighting, asking Belmopan not to trade financial aid for a “yes” vote on whale hunting.

Edilberto Romero, Executive Dir., Programme for Belize
?Basically Belize comes into the picture because it has been invited by one of the countries to participate in the International Whaling Commission, being Japan in this case, because that country has ocean, marine life, and things like that. The way we see it is it sends the wrong signal in terms of the country promoting eco-tourism. We here in Belize promote whale shark watching and snorkelling and diving, and those things that bring foreign currency into the country for eco-tourism. And now if the country votes in favour of commercial whale hunting, it goes against the principle of eco-tourism and it can affect our tourism industry.?

Janelle Chanona
?What is BACONGO?s position? That Belize has been swayed by one of these two countries to vote in a particular way??

Edilberto Romero
?There have been statements that say that Japan invited Belize to be a member of the International Whaling Commission and that Japan has used diplomatic means of lobbying and getting votes in favour. I cannot say for sure what?s the details of that and what entirely that means, but it certainly could mean a lot of things. BACONGO?s position is that Belize should do what is best for the country and that is to vote against commercial whaling.?

?There is no information that indicates clearly how the whales should be managed or if there could be sustainable hunting of whales. So the position of BACONGO is that the ban should be in place until there could be reliable and convincing information that it could be managed otherwise.?

According to BACONGO, Belize is one of sixty-two countries listed as members of the I.W.C. and has accepted the International Whaling Convention to look at conservation and management of whales of the world.

In response to BACONGO’s release, News Five contacted Chief Executive Officer in the Ministry of Agriculture, Michael Tewes, who informed us that following an executive decision, no one from Belize would in fact be attending the I.W.C. meeting in Korea. According to Tewes, Belize has no official position on whaling, but as approved by Cabinet last November, the Musa administration has determined to support the principle of sustainable development. Tewes maintains that “Belize can’t be taking this as an emotional issue because whales sing to each other…as individuals each person might have their own idea on whether they should kill whales or not…as a country we support scientific evidence that a resource can be sustainably managed.”

Tewes says according to his information, there are currently no projects being funded by Japan in Belize, but stated that Belize will be approaching members of the I.W.C. to support the country’s claims that local fisheries, such as lobster and conch, can be sustainably managed.

Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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