No safety in shells or Southern Oceans

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, December 1996:

WASHINGTON D.C.––Emboldened by
the re-election of U.S. President Bill Clinton
and Vice President Albert Gore, who
showed little inclination to defend whales
and sea turtles during their first term, and
by the re-enfranchisement of wise-use
Republicans in control of key Congressional
committees, turtle-killers and whalers are
whetting their weapons.
Most brazenly, with the election
results barely two weeks old, Louisiana
Republicans Bob Livingston, Billy Tauzin,
and John Breaux on November 21 forced the
National Marine Fisheries Service to withdraw
turtle excluder device regulations
intended to protect endangered sea turtles,
just three days after they were ostensibly
sent to the Federal Register for publication.

Livingston heads the House
Appropriations Committee, while Breaux is
on the Senate Commerce Committee.
“This latest setback came about
solely because of political pressure,”
charged Deborah Crouse of the Center for
Marine Conservation. “Despite numerous
public hearings, extensive scientific evidence
that the regulations are needed, and
months of delay by NMFS,” a branch of the
Commerce Department, “these three
Members of Congress continue to bully
NMFS, threatening its appropriations, if it
carries out its duties under the Endangered
Species Act to protect sea turtles.”
The regulations would have decertified
as ineffective most types of non-rigidframed
TEDS, the type most favored by
Gulf Coast shrimpers, and would have
required the use of TEDS in large “try” nets,
used by shrimpers to find out if shrimp are
present before they cast their main nets.
Even a week before the election,
with the Presidential outcome apparently in
the bag, the Clinton administration told a meeting of the InterAmerican
Tropical Tuna Commission in La Jolla, California,
that it will resurrect efforts to replace the current “dolphin-safe”
standard for tuna imports, which forbids the import of tuna netted
“on dolphin,” with a standard that allows fishing fleets to
kill up to 5,000 dolphins per year in observed incidents. Such
a bill cleared the House of Represetatives in July, but died in
the Senate under threat of a fillibuster by Barbara Boxer (DCalifornia),
who co-authored the “dolphin-safe” standard in
1990 while serving in the House.
The current standard has been found to be in violation
of the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs, an international
treaty that U.S. governments have favored since it was first
drafted in 1950. In current form, GATT forbids the use of
trade standards based on how something is made, as opposed
to standards based on intrinsic qualities.
Pacific tuna are most easily found when they follow
either dolphins or floating logs. Led by the World Wildlife
Fund, conservation groups committed to a “sustainable use”
strategy argue that the ban on dolphin net-sets encourages use
of log sets, which kill more sea turtles and non-target fish.
Dolphin defenders counter that neither dolphin-killing, turtlekilling,
nor high bycatch should be tolerated––and point out,
too, that some tuna varieties have been fished beyond secure
numbers, though the harm is more evident in the Atlantic.
Continuing to defy the International Whaling
Commission global moratorium on commercial whaling,
Norway on November 22 announced a 36% increase in its commercial
minke whaling quota for 1997, slating 580 minke
whales for slaughter. Norway killed about 1,800 minke whales
a year during the 1970s, honored the IWC moratorium from
1987 through 1993, and after getting away with reinstituting
commercial whaling in 1994, has steadily raised quotas. With
a $261 million missile sale to Norway already under negotiation
when the 1994 Norwegian whaling season was announced
in late 1993, Gore promised Norwegian prime minister Gro
Harlem Brundtland at a White House meeting that the U.S.
would not interfere. The missile deal was signed toward the
end of the 1994 Norwegian whaling season.
The Oslo newspaper A f t e r p o s t e n predicted on
November 21 that Norway will soon reauthorize exports of
whale meat to Japan. Smuggled exports have apparently never
“The cautious increase [in quotas] is of course a
strategic consideration in deference to the international opposition
to whaling,” said Norwegian Whale Hunters’ Association
chair Steinar Bastesen, “but I think the time has come to throw
such caution overboard.”
In alliance with the so-called African range states,
which claim Norwegian support in their effort to reopen the
international traffic in elephant ivory and rhino horn, Norway
in January intends to ask the Convention on International Trade
in Endangered Species to remove northeastern and central
northern Atlantic minke whales from Appendix I protection.
Expains CITES expert Ronald Orenstein of the
International Wildlife Coalition, “Appendix I is for species
‘threatened with extinction which are or may be threatened by
trade.’ Appendix II is for the most part to protect ‘species
which, although not necessarily threatened with extinction,
may become so unless trade in specimens of such species is
subjected to strict regulation.’”
Japan has continued whaling in the guise of “scientific
research,” with comparably increasing quotas of minkes
from the Pacific––and on November 2, sent a four-ship fleet
into the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary, designated by the
IWC in 1994, to kill 440 minkes, who are not protected under
the terms of the sanctuary agreement. Indeed, there is no
enforcement mechanism beyond moral suasion to compel anyone
to honor the sanctuary, and small chance that the Clinton
administration will provide even that much.
Complained Greenpeace ocean ecology campaign
chief Gerald Leape, “Japan has for nearly a decade been flouting
the IWC moratorium on commercial whaling, and it is time
someone stopped them. President Clinton can set the tone for
environmental policy in his second term by stating publicly that
he plans to discuss his opposition to this highly controversial
hunt in his planned meeting with Japanese Prime Minister
Hashimoto on November 20.”
Added Greenpeace media representative Tim
Andrews, “During the last four years of the Clinton administration,
worldwide whaling has increased annually to almost
1,000 whales in 1996. If the president fails to take the initiative,
Japan will continue to increase its whaling each year, rendering
the current IWC moratorium useless.”
What Leape and Andrews didn’t mention is that officially
the Clinton administration is not opposed to
whaling––and neither is Greenpeace. A 13-page policy memo
distributed to the Greenpeace Whale Team, signed by seven
Greenpeace executives, stipulated during the dickering to create
the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary that “Greenpeace does
not oppose whaling, in principle,” adding, “Greenpeace is
neither for nor against the killing of marine mammals.”
At the May 1994 IWC meeting, Greenpeace, the
World Wildlife Fund, and the International Fund for Animal
Welfare stepped aside as the Clinton administration introduced
a resolution to approve the Revised Management Plan, which
established the protocol for the resumption of commercial
whaling, leaving only the question of how many whales to kill
to be negotiated. In effect, the three organizations traded nonopposition
to the RMP for U.S. support of the creation of the
Southern Oceans Whale Sanctuary––which they got only after
Friends of Animals led a demonstration in front of the
Greenpeace headquarters in Washington D.C. that embarrassed
Greenpeace and the World Wildlife Fund into staging a protest
in front of the White House, embarrassing Al Gore into finally
committing the administration to favor the sanctuary, almost
on the eve of the IWC vote.
Objected Cetacean Society International director
emeritus Robbins Barstow, “The endorsement of any plan such
as the RMP would simply make legitimate the resumption of
commercial whaling. We might delay it here and there, but it
would be inevitable once we start down that path.”
Added Paul Watson of the Sea Shepherd Conservation
Society, “This is the equivalent of England and France
appeasing Hitler by giving him Czechoslovakia. We can understand
the trade considerations that force nations to capitulate at
the expense of conservation. We cannot understand why conservation
organizations would agree to sell out the whales.”
Concurrent with the invasion of the Southern Oceans
Whale Sanctuary, Japan authorized a drive slaughter of 75
small whales, not protected by the IWC, to appease fishers
who blame dolphins and other small whales for crashing fish
stocks in the heavily exploited Sea of Japan.
“The dolphin were herded into nets, dragged from
the water by crane” at the village of Futo, according to Sydney
Morning Herald correspondent Russell Skelton, “and beheaded
with chainsaws. The carcasses were then gutted and packed in
ice for the local sashimi bars, where raw fish is eaten. The
fishers rounded up more than 200 dolphins and eight pilot
whales. The whales and excess dolphins were released.”
Drive-killing accounts for only a small volume of
total Japanese whale slaughter. At sea, the Japanese fleet
killed 12,396 Dall’s porpoises in 1995, and 890 bottle-nosed
dolphins. By contast, U.S. fishers killed 70 dolphins in 1995,
amd Australian fishers killed only 26.
Whale meat is commonly sold at Japanese restaurants
in Hong Kong as well as within Japan. South China Morning
P o s t columnist Nury Vittachi discovered whale meat listed in
the Japanese text on one menu but not in the English and
Chinese text.
“After some enquiries into this,” Chris Parsons of the
Swire Institute of Marine Studies reported on November 6, “it
appears several other Japanese restaurants are currently selling
whale meat. Apparently, the season for fresh whale meat is in
the winter, so I presume the source is either south-migrating
North Pacific or Antarctic whales. The last report of whale
meat for sale in Hong Kong was in the early 1990s, 1991 I
think. No one was prosecuted.”
Russia, after withdrawing an application to the
International Whaling Commission on behalf of the Chukotka
Inuit for an aboriginal subsistence quota of five bowhead
whales, because it had little chance of approval, informed the
IWC in November that it has unilaterally authorized the tribe to
kill two bowheads.
“I think the Russian bowhead hunt is only a problem
for the IWC if the total catch exceeds the catch limit for that
stock,” IWC scretary Ray Gambell told High North Web
News, an electronic information service maintained by the prowhaling
High North Alliance.
The catch limit for the stock is 204 bowheads for the
four-year period 1995-1998. However, pointed out High North
Web News editor Georg Blichfeldt, “This quota is claimed by
the U.S., since in accordance with the rules for aboriginal subsistence
whaling, the quota is calculated on the needs of
Alaskan whaling communities for whale meat.”
Russia sought a bowhead quota for the Chukotka
Inuit after their fur farming industry collapsed due to declining
world demand for pelts. Russia already has an aboriginal subsistence
quota of 140 grey whales, of whom only 85 were
killed this year, according to Blichfeldt.
“Due to economic hardship and problems in providing
diesel fuel and spare parts,” Blichfeldt wrote, the primary
Chukotka whaling vessel “has not been in operation since 1992.
The IWC was well aware that much of the meat from this ship
was fed to foxes on fur farms,” he continued. “Even so, quotas
were still allocated on the basis of the calculated nutritional
needs of the Chukotka whaling communities.”

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