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‘It makes sense for SVG to support the ban on commercial whaling’

‘It makes sense for SVG to support the ban on commercial whaling’

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Former Caribbean Diplomat Sir Ronald Sanders is advocating that it is not in St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ best interest to vote in favour of lifting the ban on commercial whaling next week.{{more}}

But whichever way this country’s representatives at The International Whaling Commission’s (IWC) 62nd Annual Meeting in Agadir, Morocco, vote, Vincentians can expect it to be done independently, on the basis of principle, says Chief Fisheries Officer Raymond Ryan, who will be attending the meeting along with Director of Grenadines Affairs Edwin Snagg.

In an exclusive interview with SEARCHLIGHT on Friday, June 4, 2010, Sir Ronald, a fierce critic of commercial whaling, gave several reasons which he believes justifiably supports his position.

According to Sir Ronald, St.Vincent and the Grenadines is not a commercial whaling country and as a result, it does not earn any money from commercial whaling.

He posits that this country and other OECS countries can earn money from the rapidly developing whale watching industry in the Caribbean, which he claims has generated income amounting to US$60 million per year. The income generated by the whale watching industry in the Caribbean principally goes to Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic which are visited by the same amount of whales as St.Vincent and the Grenadines, said Sir Ronald.

He admitted that whaling watching in this country is not as developed as that of other Caribbean countries, but that is not to say that it cannot be developed.

He argued that efforts must be made to explore tourism markets in other parts of the world with whale watching enthusiasts.

“Why would you want to kill the very thing that people are coming to watch? So it doesn’t make sense for you to support commercial whaling. It makes sense for you to support the ban on commercial whaling because then there would be whales for tourists to come and watch and for your people to make money from,” said Sir Ronald, adding that small island states need to explore their “competitive advantage”.

“I fear that even in your Grenadine islands like Bequia, Mustique and so on, where you have a resident foreign community who come here for periods of the year and pay this country a great deal of taxes, that you could lose some of those people who object to your whale killing. The last thing they want is blood in the waters where they have to swim,” said Sir Ronald, noting that this is something that Vincentians need to think about.

Sir Ronald also took a swipe at Japan, one of three countries that have continued hunting whales. He said while Japan cajoles countries such as St.Vincent and the Grenadines to vote for commercial whaling at the IWC, it has refused to support the Caribbean at international forums on matters of interest to the region. He said Japan even provides fisheries complexes which they link to the vote.

“Is it worth your while to support the Japanese for a few fisheries complexes which is occasional money, when you have sustainable money from whale watching and also these tourists,” said Sir Ronald.

He added: “In voting against commercial whaling, you are not damaging your own interest because the IWC recognizes the traditional whaling people Aboriginal Rights…In your case, those rights continue to exist so you have nothing to lose and everything to gain.”

Also at stake, said Sir Ronald, is the autonomy of developing countries such as St.Vincent and the Grenadines.

“It has worried the international community because people say ‘How could you trust these Caribbean countries to be independent in principle when they are voting with the Japanese who obviously are paying their fees at the meetings and are paying for their delegations to attend these meetings as well,’” said Sir Ronald, Ryan in an exclusive interview with SEARCHLIGHT on Wednesday, June 9, 2010, noted: “We believe once the science allows us to take resources, that we should not deny the persons from taking resources.”

He expressed that St.Vincent and the Grenadines have not always voted in a similar way to Japan.

The grant aid which St.Vincent and the Grenadines receive from Japan is of no consequence and does not imply in any that this country must vote along with Japan, Ryan stated.

Ryan made it clear that St.Vincent and the Grenadines pays its own fees to the IWC as well as foots the bill of its delegation attending the IWC meeting. The IWC fee ranges between 18,000 to 25,000 pounds sterling per year, said Ryan.

“We have voted independently. One of the fundamental policies for the sector is to ensure that we have the sustainable utilisation of fisheries resources,” said Ryan.

He stated that the Fisheries Division will put measures in place when the science indicates that resources are declining in certain areas.

Ryan, who has been at the helm of the Fisheries Division since 2003, does not agree with Sir Ronald’s stance that St.Vincent and the Grenadines will accrue the same benefits as do other Caribbean countries that practise whale watching.

“You may take persons out for most of the year without them seeing a whale. So what are you going to do? They come once, they don’t see a whale, they’re not coming back,” he stressed, noting that fewer whales travel to this section of the Caribbean.

He however stated: “If there is more whale watching to be done in St.Vincent and the Grenadines we are happy.”

“We don’t have copper, we don’t have gold, we don’t have diamonds, we don’t have oil. What we have in our marine environment is fisheries resources and it is a way of ensuring our independence rather than dependence on developed countries,” said Ryan.

St.Vincent and the Grenadines joins other countries between June 21-25 on voting on a new International Whaling Commission proposal that would authorize commercial whale hunting for the first time in 24 years in exchange for reducing the number of whales killed each year.

The support of three-quarters of the delegates will be needed for passage of the proposal.

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