UK leads battle to clean up whaling commission

Japan accused of buying the support of members of the IWC with aid and bribery

A A A

Britain is embarking on a radical attempt to clean up the International Whaling Commission (IWC), which has been increasingly racked by allegations of corruption amongst its member countries.

At the heart of the concerns are repeated accusations that Japan, the leading pro-whaling nation, has been persuading small nations which are members of the IWC to vote in favour of a resumption of commercial whaling, by means of aid packages and the direct bribing of individuals.

There has been an international moratorium on commercial whaling since 1986, but Japan has carried on, describing its activities as "scientific". However, the Japanese are very keen to have the moratorium lifted, and made a determined but vain attempt to do so at last year's IWC meeting in Morocco.

Before the meeting, extensive accusations surfaced about Japanese vote-buying among the smaller IWC members, ranging from Antigua to Ivory Coast, with payments allegedly made to individuals as well as countries. In direct response to these allegations, the British government has now launched an initiative to clamp down on financial and other irregularities within the IWC.

A sweeping resolution put forward for the next IWC meeting, beginning in Jersey a week on Monday, would radically revise the commission's procedures, some of which date from its founding in 1946, are regarded as lax and inadequate and "leave it open to accusations of malpractice," in the words of Britain's Fisheries minister, Richard Benyon.

In particular, the UK resolution would end the astonishing situation where the 89 IWC member states are allowed to pay their annual subscriptions by cheque or in cash, instead of by bank transfer, as is the normal case with international organisations. It is thought that some of these subscriptions, which range from £100,000 in the case of Japan to about £4,000 for small states, have been paid in the past with Japanese-provided funds.

The British resolution also seeks to make the IWC's own scientific reports more rigorous, make its record-keeping more timely and accurate, and make its meetings more open to representatives from environmental pressure groups and other non-governmental organisations.

It was originally intended to be a resolution from the European Union, but although 26 of the 27 EU member states supported it, Denmark did not. The Danes tend to side with the pro-whaling countries because their associated territories, Greenland and the Faroes, have whaling traditions. Britain is therefore putting the resolution forward alone, although with EU support.

"This is about cleaning up the IWC," said Mr Benyon, who will be leading the British delegation to the Jersey meeting. "At the moment, it doesn't have what one would rate as the basic minimum of governance standards.

"I thought the allegations made last year were very, very serious. These were accusation of people taking bribes, and as far as I'm aware no court cases have resulted from this. So one has to face the reality that the whole organisation is damaged when such allegations are made, and we need to have an organisation that cannot leave itself open to such accusations."

Britain's position remained that "we are resolutely opposed to a resumption of commercial whaling," Mr Benyon said.

"If people thought Fifa [football's governing body] was bad, the IWC is something else," said Chris Butler-Stroud, chief executive of the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society. "We warmly welcome the Government's move."

There has never been any suggestion of malpractice within the secretariat of the IWC, which is based in Cambridge.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Chiropractic Assistant

£16500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Chiropractic Assistant is needed in a ...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Account Executive - Midlands

£18000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They work with major vehicle ma...

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides coaching ...

Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application Developer

£30000 - £40000 per annum + Benefits: Ashdown Group: Front-End UI Application ...

Day In a Page

Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England
Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

Jessica Ennis-Hill: 'I just want to give it my best shot'

The heptathlete has gone from the toast of the nation to being a sleep-deprived mum - but she’s ready to compete again. She just doesn't know how well she'll do...