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Bequia to be sensitized about whale watching

Bequia to be sensitized about whale watching

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This country was successful in its bid to have its quota of whales renewed until the year 2018, but at least one group is looking to change the whaling tradition of this country.{{more}}

Louise Mitchell-Joseph, the chairman of the St Vincent and the Grenadines National Trust, said on Wednesday, July 18 that that organization has already secured funding to begin sensitizing the whaling community of Bequia to the benefits of whale watching and conservation.

According to Joseph, consultations will begin in September and in January, a number of individuals will be selected to travel to the Dominican Republic to observe first-hand, whale watching activities in that country.

Joseph, who was also in attendance at the 64th edition of the International Whaling Commission’s meeting, said that she did not support this country’s whaling tradition, a point she articulated at the meeting.

She explained that this year, the decision to renew this country’s quota was only made possible because the IWC “bundled” together the aboriginal subsistence whaling practices of the Eskimos in Alaska and the people in Siberia, Russia.

“So, essentially it was a bundled vote for aboriginal subsistence whaling in the United States, the Russian Federation and St Vincent and the Grenadines,” Joseph explained.

She outlined the main reasons why this country should not have had its quota renewed and, according to her, they include that the word ‘aboriginal’ suggests that the practice started among the indigenous people of the country.

This is not so in the case of St Vincent and the Grenadines.

Joseph explained that the tradition of whaling on Bequia was started by early Scottish settlers.

“So, on the first ground, the St Vincent case fails,” she said.

The killing of whales is harmful to the tourism industry and, according to Joseph, it is the view of the National Trust that whale watching is more economically viable.

And the final point against whaling, based on Joseph’s argument, was that the term ‘subsistence’ suggests that it is necessary for the community’s survival.

“I do not believe this is the case in Bequia. In Bequia it is a commercial activity and not one for the survival of the people of Bequia,” Joseph contended.

She further explained that St Vincent has failed to meet the conditions which guide whaling, including the killing of lactating mothers and the use of speed boats, as opposed to sail boats.

But despite the points raised, Joseph said that the quota was renewed.

She, however, contended that St Vincent and the Grenadines was successful in its bid only because voting was bundled together with the US and Russia.

“This was a strategic political move on the part of all the countries involved to get the aboriginal subsistence whaling approved for yet another time,” Joseph said.

“So, essentially, St Vincent did not have to present a case; we were allies with the United States,” she continued.

The National Trust was not the only group opposed to whaling, as countries of Latin America also spoke out against the practice, Joseph said.

She advocated whale watching, saying that Mexico and Colombia proposed bi-lateral arrangements to get this country to change its perception of whaling.

And while it is not up to the National Trust to make the decision to go ahead with whaling or not, Joseph said that her role was that of influencing the government to consider moving in a different direction.

She said that whale watching was going to be introduced in Bequia, in an effort to introduce an alternative to the people, in the hope that they see it as a better livelihood.

Joseph further explained that it was her intention to bring to their attention the offer made by some of the Latin American nations to assist this country in moving away from whaling, and that she was going to involve the Brazilian embassy here.

But the local Whaling Commissioner Edwin Snagg told SEARCHLIGHT that he heard Joseph’s presentation and that he did not agree with her aboriginal view, because as far back as 1987, the IWC had deemed this country’s whaling style as aboriginal.

In truth and in fact, we have been conducting an aboriginal hunt for 25 years,” he said, adding that her point that it was not aboriginal was a point to be debated.

He further contended that this country’s scientific approach to the activity was modeled off the rest of the OECS and that of Japan and that whaling is done in a humane manner, although Joseph said that she did not agree that it was done so.

“When we take things from the sea, it is done in a sustainable manner,’ Snagg explained.

He argued that there were some 10,000 Humpback Whales and in some instances, no whales were caught in a given year, or it may be one or two.

“We don’t get full quota,” he maintained. (DD)

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