Santiago de Chile, February 20, 2010 – After four months of various calls made by NGOs and congressmen in Chile to know the position of Chile towards Japanese “scientific whaling” operations in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary – and just a few days from the beginning of a crucial meeting to define the future of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in Florida (USA) – the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Chile made a strong and public commitment towards the protection of whales.
In a formal letter received by Centro de Conservacion Cetacea in February 16, the director of the Environment Division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Chile, Ambassador Fernando Danus, affirms that the commitment of Chile is to work in the IWC to “promote the conservation and non lethal use of cetaceans and to systematically oppose the intentions to overturn the moratorium” on commercial whaling.
The reply – sent after several calls from NGOs and the Chilean Senate requesting information and actions against Japan whaling operations in Antarctica- coincides with the upcoming meeting of the Small Working Group of the IWC. The meeting, that will be held in early March, is aimed to evaluate the proposal negotiated behind closed doors by twelve countries to define the “future of the IWC”.
Representatives from Centro de Conservacion Cetacea, Centro Ecoceanos, EcoAnimal, AnimaNaturalis and the Latin-American Observatory of Environmental Conflicts (OLCA) stated that “the letter comes in the right moment to calm down the increasing concerns of the Chilean people about the silence of the Chilean State in regards to “scientific whaling” and the negotiation process of the IWC that is being lead by Chilean commissioner and current IWC Chair, Ambassador Cristian Maquieira”.
The official letter, sent in representation of Chilean Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mariano Fernandez, states that “the policy that Chile has in the IWC meetings is categorically favorable to the conservation and protection of whales”. According to CCC, Ecoceanos, Aconanimal, AnimaNaturalis and OLCA, “this is the position we expect to see soundly represented in the next meeting of the Small Working Group and the annual meeting of the IWC next June”.
The letter also included the commitment of the Chilean State to “support diplomatic actions oriented to promote the continuation of the moratorium of commercial whaling; the responsible development of whale watching; the continuance of conservation measures adopted by the IWC, the respect to already established whale sanctuaries and the creation of new ones,” among others.
To the Chilean NGO’s actively involved in the issue “these are important signals to face the next IWC meeting in Florida with a strong position of Chile. A position that represents the interests of the Chilean people.” The civil organizations recalled that the issue is a highly sensitive in Chile as shown by a national poll conducted in 2008 that revealed that 99% of the people strongly supports the adoption of measures to protect these species.
In particular, the civil organizations highlighted that “the respect to already established sanctuaries” is of particular relevance during the next meeting in March, since “scientific whaling” in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary risks governability in Antarctica, contravenes the moratorium on commercial whaling and obstructs the negotiation process of the IWC, becoming one of the major threats for the future of the IWC.
“Therefore, the adoption of measures oriented to gradually reduce “scientific whaling” operations in the Southern Ocean as part of the negotiation process is unacceptable. Scientific whaling must end now if the IWC is to have a future” concluded the civil organizations.