Subject: Info: South Africa to review Whaling

Michael Williamson (pita@whale.simmons.edu)
Tue, 21 May 1996 13:36:58 -0400 (EDT)

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Tue, 21 May 1996 07:52:13 -0700
From: r.mallon1@genie.com
To: Multiple recipients of list MARMAM <MARMAM@UVVM.BITNET>
Subject: South Africa to review backing

South Africa to review backing for whaling ban

    By Brendan Boyle
     CAPE TOWN, May 20 (Reuter) - South Africa, a sanctuary for
the southern right whale, wants to ease its ban on whaling off
its shores by reviewing its membership of the International
Whaling Commission (IWC) which administers a worldwide
moratorium on whale hunting.
     A confidential document sent to government departments and
some conservationists ahead of the IWC's June meeting in
Scotland proposes that South Africa should keep a low profile
and should decide by the 1997 meeting whether to downgrade its
membership to observer status.
     The document, of which Reuters has a copy, seems set to
reopen the emotional debate about the bloody business of hunting
the world's biggest mammals.
     "It is proposed that South Africa should retain its
independent spirit in order to protect South Africa's interests
and should use its influence to combat extremism in favour of
non-whaling," South African IWC commissioner and Department of
Sea Fisheries director Guillaume de Villiers said in the paper.
     De Villiers confirmed the authenticity of the document, but
told Reuters it was a proposal and not yet official policy.
     He said there was no immediate threat to the estimated 2,000
southern right whales that visit the coast mainly between June
and November to mate and calve.
     The whales, which frolic within metres of the shore, draw
thousands of tourists every year, many from abroad.
     "At the moment, in South African waters, all whales are
protected. I would be extremely surprised if the government were
to open up whaling on our coast," de Villiers said.
     But veteran Save the Whales campaigner Nan Rice, who
condemned the document outright, said South Africa had been a
premier whaling nation for 184 years till the late 1970s and
owed it to the world to fight for the survival of the whales.
     "Taking into consideration South Africa's role in bringing
some of the great whale species to thebrink of extinction...it
should be the moral duty of our country to remain an active
member of the IWC. I'm very, very disturbed about this," she
said.
     Deputy Minister of Environment Affairs Bantu Holomisa said
he had not been informed officially about the proposal and that
it had not been discussed by the government. "At this time you
can take it as a non-starter," he said.
     But Peter Mokaba, chairman of the parliamentary committee on
environment affairs, told Reuters South Africa should leave the
door open for a return to commercial whaling.
     "We should not allow a situation where anything is not
possible. We must stay with the IWC to see what other countries
are thinking, but keep our own options open," he said.
     The document drafted by de Villiers points to anomalies in
policies on mammal conservation and proposes that a clear
position should be adopted before the IWC's 1997 meeting.
     "The approach and policy towards whales should be
compatible with general policies towards the utilization
of...other mammals such as seals and elephants," he said.
     Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF) director Ian Macdonald
welcomed de Villiers' call for a clear division between
scientific and emotional arguments about the sustainable
utilisation of vulnerable species.
     "There is a lot of confusion in the minds of government and
the public about why we adopt certain policies and we should be
clear about these things," he said.
     South Africa supported the creation of a southern ocean
whale sanctuary below the 55th parallel in 1994 and bans all
whaling off its own shores, but also supports the harvesting of
white rhinos, seals and elephants to finance conservation.