Tuvalu News

Bid fails for Tuvalu support on whaling
11 May 2006

A bid by Conservation Minister Chris Carter to persuade Tuvalu to vote with New Zealand to protect whales has failed, with the tiny Pacific archipelago saying it favours sustainable use.

News that the Tuvaluan Government said it was grateful for aid from Australia and New Zealand but wanted to act in the best interests of its people has been met with disappointment.

The decision comes before a crucial International Whaling Commission meeting at which Japan may take control of the 66-nation body.

New Zealand's whaling commissioner Sir Geoffrey Palmer said Tuvalu's stance was bad news.

"It's going to be exceedingly close and therefore every vote counts."

A senior Tuvaluan Government official said it would maintain the sustainable use of whales.

"Our position has never changed since we joined the International Whaling Commission. We are for the sustainable use of whatever resources we have, be it whales, fish, forestry, land. While we appreciate assistance from both countries, Tuvalu should be allowed as a sovereign nation to make its independent decision on what is best for its people."

Mr Carter was not available for comment yesterday but a spokesman said despite relationship-building between the two countries "it was never expected the meeting would produce an overnight change in Tuvalu's position".

New Zealand gives $2.05 million a year in aid to Tuvalu and recently awarded $135,000 for a stocktake of whales and dolphins in Tuvalu waters.

Though the information gained could be used to set up a whale-watching operation it could equally be exploited by whale-hunting nations.

The diplomatic failure for Mr Carter comes as nations lined up with Japan meet in Tokyo today to plan their strategy for the IWC meeting from June 16 to 20 in the Caribbean nation of St Kitts and Nevis.

Last month Mr Carter sent a letter to other anti-whaling nations urging them to attend and fend off Japanese moves.

On paper Japan has a majority of the 66 member nations in the IWC. To overturn the 1986 moratorium on commercial whaling would require a three-quarters majority, which is unlikely, but a simple majority vote would amount to a big win for Japan and fellow whaling nations Norway and Iceland.

Mr Carter is to visit the Solomons, Kiribati and Nauru before the IWC meeting. Sir Geoffrey said Mr Carter's lobbying was important "as the Pacific has been turning against us in the International Whaling Commission".

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