The pro-whaling nations on Tuesday blocked an effort of nearly two decades to create a refuge in the South Atlantic for marine mammals in danger of extinction, deepening the divisions at a meeting of the International Whaling Commission already underway in Brazil .
The South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary was supported by 39 countries with 25 votes against and several countries did not cast their votes, so they did not obtain the required majority of two thirds of the 89-member body.
Brazil's environment minister, Edson Duarte, whose country has been proposing the creation of the sanctuary since an IWC meeting in 2001, said he was disappointed but would continue to seek support around the world.
"As a minister of the environment in a country with 20 percent of the world's biodiversity in its forests, we feel highly responsible for the administration of our wealth, for the whole world, and this also applies to cetaceans," said Duarte. Applause from the delegates.
The environmental groups that attended the meeting expressed a bitter disappointment at the result.
Co-sponsored by Argentina, Gabon, South Africa and Uruguay, it was first debated in 1998 and voted on since the 2001 IWC meeting.
The IWC recognizes two other sanctuaries, the Indian Ocean Sanctuary created in 1979 and another in 1994, in the waters of the Southern Ocean around Antarctica.
& # 39; Bad faith & # 39;
Pro-whaling Japan voted against the project, backed by the commercial whaling states of Iceland and Norway, as well as Russia. The Japanese delegation has pushed for a change in rules at biennial meetings that would allow decisions to be made by simple majority instead of the current three-quarters minimum.
This would make it easier for Japan to push forward its proposal to end a 32-year moratorium on commercial whaling and reintroduce "sustainable whaling", largely to the wrath of nations that oppose whaling. practice.
Also, as officials of the Japanese Foreign Ministry pointed out at the meeting in Brazil, they have allowed the creation of the long-standing sanctuary.
New Zealand Commissioner Amy Laurenson, speaking in favor of the sanctuary, said at the meeting that it was about protecting whales, "not to determine the result for other areas of the world."
Grettel Delgadillo, of Humane Society International (HSI), said the vote was a "bitter disappointment" and "a genuine sign of bad faith and continued intrigue on the part of the Japanese bloc, and it augurs very little for the crucial votes that will come more go ahead this week. "
Australia won a case against Japan at the International Court of Justice in 2014 for ignoring the Southern Ocean sanctuary and hunting around Antarctica as part of its "scientific program".
Following the decision, Japan continues to hunt in the Southern Ocean but with a reduced catch quota.
– Without pay, without saying –
Six member countries did not send delegations, while seven countries that did – most of them African – did not pay their fees and could not vote.
The observers said that for some of these smaller countries, not voting on a highly sensitive issue is a diplomatic gesture, and it is unlikely they would want to be seen in either of the two camps.
However, some anti-whaling delegates said they showed a lack of preparedness in proposing countries to allow the leakage of potential votes due to a procedural issue, and added that Japan was much more efficient in preparing the ground political.
The result perpetuates a deadlock of decades ago between pro and anti-whaling parties at the IWC.
Nicolas Entrup, of the Swiss NGO OceanCare, outlined an action plan to protect whales in the South Atlantic adopted unanimously by the parties to the United Nations Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) last year.
Rejecting the "destructive blockade of some countries," he said that CMS states should move forward without the approval of the IWC to form the sanctuary.
Patrick Ramage, of the International Fund for Animal Welfare, said that "a sanctuary in this region would have provided strong protection to a wide range of whale and dolphin species."
"The research of non-lethal whales in this area has already provided valuable data on whales and a sanctuary would have been built on this further, providing us with much more useful and accurate information than that which has been obtained from the so-called scientific whaling" , he added.
Delgadillo of HSI added: "The nations of the region want to create – and have every right to create – a safe haven for whales under the constant threats of commercial whaling, death by entanglement in fishing gear, pollution marine and the injuries caused by strikes of ships ".