From ANIMAL PEOPLE, October 1994:

MOSCOW, Russia– Already
holding a formal objection to the global whal-
ing moratorium decreed by the International
Whaling Commission in 1986, Russia on
September 13 filed an objection to the May
creation of the Southern Ocean Whale
Sanctuary as well––meaning that under IWC
rules, Russia not only may kill whales com-
mercially without fear of trade sanctions, but
also may kill whales below the 40th parallel,
where about 80% of the world’s surviving
baleen whales spend up to 80% of their time.
Intended to protect whales in
Antarctic waters, the sanctuary was in effect
won by the U.S. delegation at cost of conced-
ing the passage of a Revised Management
Plan for setting commercial whaling quotas.

While the adoption of the RMP could lead to
the resumption of commercial whaling world-
wide within another 18 months, despite the
failure of most whale species to recover from
near extinction, the designation of the
Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary was sup-
posed to insure that most whales would sur-
vive––especially if, as RMP backers includ-
ing Greenpeace and the International Fund for
Animal Welfare contend, the RMP formula
kept the quotas near zero for years to come.
Instead, the refusal of the U.S. dele-
gation to lead the world in continuing a “Just
say no” approach to whaling apparently con-
vinced whaling nations and would-be whaling
nations that they can whale away with
impunity. The lack of firm U.S. opposition to
whaling was underscored by the failure of the
Clinton administration to impose trade sanctions on Norway
for unilaterally breaking the whaling moratorium both this
year and last, while negotiating a $625 million missile sale to
Norway. A leaked Greenpeace internal memo stating that,
“Greenpeace does not oppose whaling, in principle,” and
continued IFAW support for the Clinton administration posi-
tion reinforce the view worldwide that saving whales is no
longer an American or western European priority.
On August 6, after word reached the U.S. that
Russia might object to the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary,
the Clinton administration did finally make a symbolic move
against Norway. Stated vice president Al Gore, “The
President has directed that a list of potential sanctions, includ-
ing a list of Norwegian seafood products that could be the sub-
ject of import prohibitions, be developed.” However, Gore
added, “Because the primary interest of the U.S. in this matter
is to protect the integrity of the IWC and its conservation poli-
cies regarding minke whales, we believe our policies can best
be achieved by delaying the implementation of sanctions until
we have exhausted all good faith efforts to persuade Norway
to follow acceptable conservation measures. I sincerely
hope,” he concluded, “that Norway will comply with such
measures so that sanctions become unnecessary.”
Russians nuking whales?
“Evidence strongly suggests,” the Antarctica Project
said, “that a major factor in Russia’s decision to leave the
option open for a resumption of commercial whaling was the
prospect of supplying whale meat to the lucrative Japanese
Politics were also involved. Russian prime minister
Viktor Chernomyrdin, a populist conservative, undoubtedly
saw the chance to create a few jobs and simultaneously appeal
to nationalism by resisting western pressure over whaling,
even as he yielded from lack of choice in negotiations over
currency values and the dismantling of the former Soviet
nuclear arsenal. Whaling might have been a bargaining chip
in several international matters as well. On September 14,
for instance, a day after Russia declared the exception,
Greenpeace disclosed that on May 24, two days before the
whale sanctuary was created, Swiss and Russian officials met
in St. Petersburg to discuss a deal that would have sent Swiss
nuclear waste to southern Siberia for reprocessing at “a secret
Russian military complex producing plutonium.” Greenpeace
did not link that deal to whaling––but also on May 24 the
Russian delegation to the IWC meeting in Puerto Vallarta dis-
closed that Japan had threatened to withhold funding for a
nuclear waste storage site it had earlier promised to finance,
situated in the same general area. No ability to store nuclear
waste might have meant no big Swiss contract.
Russian deputy nuclear power minister Nikolai
Yegorov said no such deal is now in the works, nor was it
then, though he admitted hearing the Swiss proposal.
According to Yegorov, Russia intends to ban imports of
nuclear waste except from Bulgaria and Hungary, which
export waste to Russia as a condition of their purchase of
Russian-designed reactors some years ago.
Even if the nuclear deal was science fiction, the
September 15 convening of the annual Barents Sea Regional
Cooperation Council was meaningful for whales, as the for-
eign ministers of Russia, Norway, Finland, and Sweden dis-
cussed economic and ecological issues including expanded
Norwegian commerce with Russia. The Russian turnabout on
whaling, of little significance to most Russians but a political-
ly potent identity issue for the current Norwegian government,
was an easy way for the Chernomyrdin regime to curry favor.
The Russian position on whaling might also have
import in ongoing negotiations with Japan over fishing rights
around the Kurile Islands, now in Russian possession, which
both nations have claimed since the mid-19th century.
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