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Japan: Whaling

Volume 724: debated on Wednesday 2 February 2011


Asked by

To ask Her Majesty’s Government what representations they have made to the Government of Japan to persuade them to modify their opposition to a whaling ban in their territorial waters.

My Lords, the Foreign Secretary and other Ministers, including those from my department, raised whaling with the Japanese Government on several occasions last year. Through the International Whaling Commission and the global convention for whaling, the United Kingdom regularly states our opposition to whaling by Japan and objects to its so-called scientific whaling in north Pacific and Antarctic waters. Japan’s action undermines the moratorium on commercial whaling, the southern ocean whale sanctuary and international efforts to conserve and protect whales.

I thank the Minister for that response. Japan has been seeking to put pressure on the International Whaling Commission to lift its ban on commercial whaling. Can the Minister assure the House that the Government will support the IWC secretariat as it seeks to improve governance in the light of allegations of vote buying and corruption, in the lead-up to its meeting in the Channel Islands this summer?

My Lords, we have no direct evidence of vote buying or corruption, although I have to say that some of the voting at last year's IWC meeting in Agadir seemed somewhat odd and possibly resembles the Eurovision Song Contest. Having said that, we will continue to press our case at this year's IWC, and I hope that we will achieve similar success to what we achieved last year at Agadir.

My Lords, I welcome the fact that despite the change of government, UK policy on whaling seems to have emerged unscathed and unchanged. Given that the UK will be hosting the next IWC meeting, the importance of preparing for this meeting is even more pressing. From his contacts so far, how does the Minister assess the prospects for reform of the IWC at that meeting, and how does he assess the likelihood of getting together the alliance that we need to promote the policies that the UK Government favour?

My Lords, first, I thank the noble Baroness for her comments. We will certainly continue with the policy on which Her Majesty's Governments—of all parties—have concluded for a number of years. We will continue to work with the IWC and hope to achieve success there. The important thing is that we also work within the EU to ensure that the EU speaks with a united voice on these matters. I offer praise to my honourable friend Mr Benyon, who last year at Agadir got the EU to speak as one bloc on the matter. It is very important that the EU continues to do that at St Helier this summer.

My noble friend mentioned the EU. Iceland is at the moment negotiating to join the EU. Last year, the Prime Minister suggested that if Iceland is to join the EU, it should cease whaling in its territorial waters. Has any progress been made with that proposal?

Our views and the views of other member states have been made fairly clear to Iceland. Put very simply, it has been advised that whaling is possibly incompatible with EU membership.

My Lords, I welcome what my noble friend said. Is he aware of anything at all of scientific interest that has emerged from the Japanese practice of capturing whales for allegedly scientific purposes?

My Lords, I am not aware, and that is why the words I used in my original Answer were “so-called scientific whaling”.

My Lords, in advance of the meeting of the International Whaling Commission in July, are the Government exerting maximum pressure on all countries that are reasonably sympathetic to us—for example, Norway—that still practise whaling? Would it not be right to press very hard before the meeting in July rather than leaving it until July to exercise our influence?

My Lords, the noble Lord makes a very good point, and we will continue to exert pressure on all the relevant states. He is right to draw attention to Norway, which is one of the countries that continues to practise whaling. We will continue to do so before the IWC and at the IWC itself.

What is the current situation with the whale population? Are there still whales on the list of endangered species?

My Lords, I understand that there are still whales on the endangered list, but the general agreement is that whaling should stop. That is what the IWC is seeking and what we, along with a number of other countries, are pressing for.