19 Jun 2006

New Zealand disappointed Pacific countries voted for pro-whaling resolution

4:03 pm on 19 June 2006

The New Zealand Minister of Conservation, Chris Carter, says all six Pacific Island countries at an International Whaling Commission meeting have voted in favour of a pro-whaling resolution.

The Japanese resolution, which passed by 33 votes to 32 with one abstention, criticises the moratorium on commercial whaling, blames whales for depleting fish stocks, and says non-governmental organisations are a threat.

Mr Carter says the IWC Pacific members of Solomon Islands, Nauru, Kiribati, Tuvalu, the Marshall Islands, and Palau, have let down their neighbours in the Pacific.

He says New Zealand has often gone the extra mile for many of these countries and today they have not reciprocated.

The minister, who's in St. Kitts where the vote took place, says he's disappointed that they voted with Japan.

"I am surprised by it and particularly disappointed that all six of the Pacific Island nations that are here, all voted for the Japanese proposal. I was told by Pacific leaders that they would never agree to the resumption of commercial whaling but that's essentially what their delegates did today."

Although the resolution is not binding, Mr Carter believes it sets the stage for Japan to eventually get the ban on commercial whaling lifted.

A vote to lift the ban would require a 75 percent majority.

The Solomon Islands vote is at odds with what the government has stated that it would do.

The prime minister, Manasseh Sogavare, says the cabinet directed the Minister of Fisheries, Nollen Leni, on two issues; that of commercial whaling and scientific whaling.

He says that the cabinet told Mr Leni specifically that he should abstain from voting.

The minister was advised to abstain from those two issues so if the votes were related to those two issues, then our position was to abstain.

This is the second time that the Solomon Islands government has said publicly that it would abstain from voting but its representative has gone ahead and voted with Japan.