Prime Minister wants united approach to whaling in the OECS

ST GEORGE’S, Grenada, CMC - Prime Minister Tillman Thomas Wednesday said the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) needs to adopt a united approach in dealing with the issue of commercial whaling in the region.
Thomas said that whale watching had become a significant aspect of the tourism product in the Caribbean and recently OECS commissioners took a decision to continue voting in support of Japan’s request to lift the ban on commercial whaling when the matter is discussed at the annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in Morocco next month.

“It goes both ways. Most of us are tourism destinations and we benefit equally from tourism, so it’s a matter of getting together and looking at the issue. We want to talk about sustainable whaling and different approaches towards that,” he said.

But former Vice Chancellor of the University of The West Indies, (UWI) Sir Shridath Ramphal, describes the decision by OECs countries to support Japan as a travesty.

 “It’s a great sadness to me that some of our smaller countries…a significant number to make a difference in the world’s Whaling Commission, are in fact joining with them (Japan) in perpetuating the slaughter, and in the end the extinction of these mammals.”
Sir Shridath said that reports by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Japan show that the position of the OECS is as a result of the financial aid they receive from the Asian country.

 “The Japanese make no bones about it; they are using ‘cheque book’ diplomacy. They are buying our votes and we fool ourselves (into thinking) that we are part of the tradition of whaling…what we are doing is making ourselves part of their extinction.”

Former Caribbean diplomat, Sir Ronald Sanders is also calling on Caribbean countries not to support Japan on the issue.

 “If they remain committed to supporting Japan’s desire for whale hunting…it would not be in their interest,” he told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) adding that whales are worth more to the region alive than dead.
“A dead whale is no good to the Caribbean; we need live whales…because we’ve got a burgeoning whale watching industry, particularly in the Eastern Caribbean countries that is an essential and growing part of their tourism product.

“If we support the Japanese desire for commercial whaling to continue, then we are destroying the very livelihood that we need for our people – for jobs and also for revenues coming into the country.”

Sir Ronald also believes that the OECS is backing Japan’s position purely for financial reasons.

But Prime Minister Thomas says the OECS members are not fearful that Japan would stop providing financial assistance to the sub-region, insisting it is about balancing the need to preserve the environment along with sustainable use of marine resources. 

“I guess there are arguments on both sides; people have been fishing all over the world historically and according to some, it [commercial whaling] is a form of fishing. It is how you do it,” he said.
 “Some argue for sustainable fishing, other say don’t do it at all. It’s a matter that has to be debated,” he said.

Between 1986 and 1995, Grenada received more thanr US$15 million in grant aid from Japan and this year, the government expects US$5 million in assistance for the development of a coastal fisheries project in the west coast fishing town of Gouyave.