April 08, 2013 – Through Zero Whaling campaign, more than five thousand people signed a petition requesting the government of Panama to maintain its policy in favor of the conservation of whales and to stop being involved in the killing of whales and retire its flag to the fuel caro vessel Sun Laurel.
Panama is a member of the Buenos Aires Group, comprised by Latin-American countries that maintain a permanent commitment with the global moratorium on commercial whaling and strongly oppose so-called “scientific whaling” operations conducted by the Japanese government.
Elsa Cabrera, coordinator of Zero Whaling campaign, affirmed that “we expect that the Panamanian authorities respond positively to the call made by thousand of people around the world since it is incomprehensible that a country strongly committed to the conservation of cetaceans and the promotion of whale watching is involved in whaling operations that threaten conservation efforts and put under serious risk the vulnerable Antarctic ecosystem, bearing in mind that the vessel carries great amounts of fuel”.
The petition, delivered today to the commissioner of Panama at the International Whaling Commission, Tomas Guardia, was supported by thousands of people from more than 60 countries. Over a 70 percent of the signatures came from citizens from Buenos Aires Group countries (Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Mexico, Dominican Republic, Peru and Uruguay), showing that the issue is highly sensitive in the region.
Roxana Schteinbarg, coordinator of the Whale Conservation Institute in Argentina, affirmed, “no country that has a conservation policy of cetaceans should allow its flag to be involved in their slaughter, independently of any type of technicalities. And that is just what the people, especially from Latin American countries, are requesting the Panamanian government. It is a priority that Panama respects the commitments of the Buenos Aires Group towards the maintenance of the moratorium, the respect of the Southern Ocean whale sanctuary and the opposition to ‘scientific’ whaling operations. The country should take all the necessary actions to guarantee that no whaling vessel uses its flag again”.
This is not the first time that the government of Panama is involved with the Japanese whaling fleet. In 2008 the country withdraw its flag to the Japanese fuel cargo vessel Oriental Bluebird after several denounces of violations of national legislation.
Jose Truda Palazzo, former commissioner of Brazil at the IWC and representative of the Cetacean Conservation Center in that country added “what happened in 2008 is the result of the consolidation of a policy for the conservation and non lethal use of whales so its quite surprising that the government of Panama has not yet taken measures to retire its flag to the Sun Laurel, in order to stop being involved in an activity that the country opposes at national and international level”.
The petition affirms “the image of Panama as a nation committed with the conservation of cetaceans is seriously damaged by being involved in whaling operations that are widely rejected by the public and the international community”. Therefore, the letter requires the Panamanian government that “in order to comply with the commitments acquired as a nation and to continue consolidating the country as an emergent destination of whale watching, we require the government to immediately retire the Panamanian flag to the Sun Laurel”.
Although the environmentalists recognize and value the efforts made by Panama and the Buenos Aires Group in the conservation of whales, they consider necessary to maintain the region free of Japanese whaling interests and look forward to a soon and positive reply of Panamanian authorities to the massive request made by thousands of people around the world.
Source: Centro de Conservacion Cetacea