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A Win for the Whales in Morocco?

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The fate of nature's largest marine mammals has been the topic of closed door discussions this past week at the annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in Agadir, Morocco. Negotiations could have potentially seen the reinstatement of commercial whaling for the first time since the international moratorium was put into effect in 1986. On Wednesday the commission failed to seal the deal, which may appear at first glance as good news for the whales, but still leaves their immediate future in the corrupt hands of rogue whaling nations such as Iceland, Norway and Japan who have continued to illegally hunt tens of thousands of whales since the supposed "ban" was initially introduced three decades ago.

Created after World War II to conserve and manage international whale stocks, The IWC is made up of delegates from 88 both pro and anti-whaling nations, some of whom have no legitimate business in being at the bargaining table in the first place. According to former UN scientist and veteran IWC attendee Dr. Sidney Holt, the officially titled, "Proposed Consensus Decision to Improve the Conservation of Whales," is really "a proposal for the destruction of the International Whaling Commission as a serious inter-governmental body for both the conservation of whales and managing future human uses of them, using relevant and competent scientific and legal advice."

In a speech given to delegates earlier this week, Australian Environment Minister Peter Garrett deemed the potential lifting of the 24-year-old moratorium as an impossibility. Garrett, who has come under fire from several key conservationists over the years for his softened stance on whaling issues, appears to finally be stepping up to the plate on behalf of the gentle giants of the sea. Australia not only led the way in opposition of the eventually rejected "peace plan" but they have also recently brought about a lawsuit against Japan at the International Court of Justice in the Netherlands to end the annual hunt in the Antarctic waters that are major feeding grounds for nearly four-fifths of the world's whales.

One of the major components comprising the moot deal would have been the allotment of a certain quota of whales to be legally hunted off the coastal waters of Japan and other pro-whaling nations in exchange for a significant reduction in the number of whales killed in Japan's annual bloodbath in the southern oceans. Hidden under the false guise of "scientific research," Japan's whaling program in the southern hemisphere sanctuary has long made a mockery of basic human intelligence as anyone with an IQ above room temperature can clearly decipher the difference between research and profit. With initiatives set forth by Japan's Institute of Cetacean Research with bogus names like "krill abundance and the feeding ecology of whales," one must wonder about the groundbreaking findings of such in depth analysis. However, the reality is that in over two-and-a-half decades of mass slaughter of these magnificent beings, not a single study has been conducted that has produced any significant conclusions. In short, the Japanese have been allowed to brutally murder 1,000 whales per year in Antarctica in order to inform the global community of their big breakthrough in scientific research: whales eat plankton, lots and lots of plankton. Look out Einstein, we seem to have some real braniacs on our hands here!

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Some conservationists argue that the entire "trade off" proposal has been a blow to any real progress of The IWC and criticize certain non-profits for their consideration of the compromise deal as it further undermines the ultimate goal of abolishment of ALL whaling in the world's oceans. Noted Ramon Cardona, founder of Ocean Sentry, who was on the ground this week patiently awaiting the small time slot allowed for the NGO conglamerate's participation in open discussion meetings, "It is absolutely unacceptable that non-profit organizations such as Greenpeace, WWF and PEW, are in favor of the return to commercial whaling in the northern hemisphere in order to phase out whaling in the southern sanctuary. Not only does this go directly against the moratorium on commercial whaling, but it is even more disgraceful coming from supposed environmental organizations who are avidly collecting funds to defend whales."

To add further controversy to this year's meeting, Japan has recently been implicated in a vote-buying scandal in the weeks leading up to the IWC. Whether or not this revelation has influenced the suspension of 17 of the meeting's 88 member nation's right to vote by deputy chairman Anthony Liverpool, a diplomat from Antigua and Barbuda, is still under suspicion by critics. According to the London Sunday Times, Liverpool also appears to be living large at a luxury beach resort courtesy of the government of Japan to which he was quoted by the Associated Press as stating there was, "nothing odd about that." Other reports of bribery have come in the form of overseas aid, cash payments in envelopes and the offer of prostitutes to delegates. The countries banned from voting this year included Palau, the Marshall Islands, Ghana and Gambia and comprised mainly pro-whaling nations which had been expected to back Japan's proposal.

While the issue of fraudulent votes was publicly exposed in the recent Academy Award-winning film The Cove, the film has also put Japan in the hot seat for its horrific annual slaughter of tens of thousands of dolphins and pilot whales in Japanese coastal waters, who are not accounted for or regulated under IWC mandate due to their smaller size. With growing momentum from the film's overwhelming success and the recent worldwide media attention brought about by Sea Shepherd's latest high stakes campaign in the southern ocean, Japan is certainly feeling the pressure from the global community to put an end to its barbaric whaling practices. Of course one can not expect overnight miracles from a country whose former lead whaling negotiator, Masayuki Komatsu, once referred to the cetacean nation as the "cockroaches of the sea." However, one can always continue to have hope.