Israel dives in to save whales

Israel makes a splash in keeping whales safe, defeating Japanese motions to hunt.

whale hunting 298.88 (photo credit: AP)
whale hunting 298.88
(photo credit: AP)
The tide hasn't ebbed at the International Whaling Commission's annual meeting in St. Kitts and Nevis, but Israel has already made a splash in keeping whales safe. Israel cast ballots against the three Japanese-initiated measures voted on so far at the meeting, which began Friday and will continue until Tuesday, helping to defeat all of them in tight votes. One of the defeated measures would have permitted a commercial moratorium exemption allowing countries to hunt 150 Minke and 150 Byrde whales in their own territorial waters. That motion was defeated 31-30. Another would have removed the prohibition on hunting dolphins and porpoises. "The main thing about the IWC is it's extremely polarized and every vote counts," said Merav Datan, Greenpeace International's political adviser for the Mediterranean and Middle East. Esther Efrat, the head of the treaty division at the Foreign Ministry, is representing Israel at the meeting. Since Israel joined the IWC only two weeks ago at the invitation of the US, Efrat had to cram to learn all the necessary information before leaving. "We consulted the United States, Japan and Australia to find their agendas," said an official in the treaty department. "The secretary of the IWC was also very helpful with information." The IWC, an international organization dedicated to managing whaling and protecting the world's largest mammals, has banned whaling for all but scientific purposes since 1986. Japan and Iceland have used this provision to continue killing whales, selling the meat after conducting scientific tests. Japan has brought in small Pacific island countries to the IWC to help sway the majority to its favor. Although the pro-whaling countries need a three-quarters majority of the 70-member commission to repeal the ban against whaling, only a simple majority is necessary to make other changes to IWC policies. Israel has joined other anti-whaling countries in voting against any changes to the IWC's restrictions on whaling. "We have laws protecting wildlife and since whales are part of wildlife, this influences how we vote," said the treaty department official.