In three weeks member countries of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) will meet to decide whether to lift the ban on commercial whaling, as being proposed by Japan which is said to be a predominantly fish-eating nation.

The countries of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), Grenada included, took a decision two weeks ago to vote as a block, on the side of Japan at this meeting scheduled for Morocco in June.

This decision is being hotly criticized by environmentalist and anti-whaling activists some of whom participated in a symposium here last week to reiterate their concerns. They have put forward scientific evidence, gathered over a two-year period, that shows that whales, which come to the Caribbean mainly during the winter, do not feed, but they come to spawn and to give birth.

So they are disputing the argument, said to be put forward by Japan, that the whales eat the fish of the Caribbean and thereby reduce the fish-stock for fishermen.
With all of this information available, and with governments being made aware of this scientific discoveries, this newspaper is wondering why the OECS governments are continuing to, as it were, agree to vote with Japan to lift the ban on commercial whaling. What is there to lose if the region, and maybe Grenada on its own, stands up and votes to keep the ban?

Remember, a significant number of people come to the Caribbean for a chance to see whales in their natural habitat, because we sell them the idea that they can. What then would they see, if we sign the whales off to be killed by the Japanese who are only interested in maintaining their food culture?

Okay! So we may be getting a 10-million dollar fisheries plant from the Japanese, but what is the value of what we will be giving up to get that plant?

In small economies like ours, every sector is hinged to the other. The fishing industry is hinged to tourism and tourism is hinged to agriculture. Our fishermen are encouraged to sell their catch to local hotels and guest houses, which need the tourists to stay in business – the same tourists who are coming to watch the whales in the blue Caribbean Sea.  So what really is the value to us, the hoteliers, the fishermen, if we agree to kill the whales as a trade-off for a fishing plant? Who will they sell their fish to?

These are questions we would like the government to answer publicly before they fly off to Morocco to vote for lifting the ban on whaling.

A recent study by the Fisheries Centre of the University of British Colombia has shown that whale watching around the world could generate an additional US $830-million in revenue, 31-million of which could be realized by the Caribbean alone.

Here is another fact to consider:

Most whales give birth every two to four years and they only birth one calf at a time. This means that if there are ten female whales making the trip to the Caribbean and they are all coming to give birth there will only be ten calves born, in four years, and there are no guarantees that all ten would make it to adulthood.
So has the OECS really counted the cost of its decision to vote with Japan?

Linda Straker
473 415 4413