15 Jun 2005

Anti-whaling group watching Solomons stance

3:58 pm on 15 June 2005

A whale conservation group says it is watching Solomon Islands closely to see if the country follows through on a key commitment in the struggle against commercial whaling.

The Japanese Government has reportedly asked the Solomons' Government to clarify its position on commercial whaling.

This follows an announcement by the Solomons' Prime Minister, Sir Allan Kemakeza, that his government will abstain in voting next week on whether the 20-year moratorium on commercial whaling should be lifted.

Philippa Brakes, a scientist with the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, at the 57th meeting of the International Whaling Commission in South Korea, says the Solomons' vote is key.

She says the anti-commercial whaling lobby hopes the Solomons' will keep to its commitment, but is anxious about a visit to Honiara this week by Japanese officials.

"But now we have some concerns that there's some fairly high level diplomatic representation from Japan also going into the Solomon Islands and putting forms of diplomatic pressure on them in that sense as well. So at this stage it's not entirely clear how they will vote, but we like to think that although in the past we've had lack of support from the Solomon Islands, say, for example with the South Pacific whale sanctuary, we are hopeful that a commitment from such a high level, from the Prime Minister, should at least be followed through at this meeting."

Philippa Brakes.