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Sustainable Whaling in Bequia

Sustainable Whaling in Bequia
Edwin Snagg – International Whaling Commission (IWC) Commissioner.


by Edwin Snagg
IWC Commissioner

The legitimate taking of humpback whales this season has sparked off the anti whalers and their lobbyists.

As usual, their clear disrespect for people’s rights and culture remains consistent and their desire to impose their will on others based on money and power.

This activity takes place under the International Whaling Commission (IWC) convention on the regulation of whaling. The international body agreed by consensus that SVG be granted a quota of four humpback whales per annum for a period of five years. At the IWC meeting in Florianopolis in Brazil in September 2018, the general body voted in support of the aboriginal subsistence whaling of Greenland, Alaska; the Russian Federation; and Bequia, St Vincent and the Grenadines. The votes cast were 58 for, 7 against, and 5 abstentions. All seven against came from central and south America. Notably Brazil abstained.

The scientific committee of the IWC informed the general body at its plenary meeting that the take will not harm the stock and is sustainable as the annual increase of the stock is approximately 300; since the moratorium the overall stock has shown an increase of all species of whales.

Despite the legitimacy of local whaling, the anti-whalers and their local lobbyists continue the unabated onslaught on various fronts. It is of note that the Bequia hunt is classed as aboriginal and based on its traditional cultural and historical nature. The lobbyists proclaim that there is no need for the hunt and Vincentians prefer chicken so they don’t need whale meat for food. Two humpback whales in excess of 80ft were consumed from Saturday evening to early Sunday morning, with one being left overnight because of nightfall, estimated at about at least 64 tons of meat.

There are other factors beside food security for our people that are indeed bothersome, the very erosion of our traditions and culture by developed countries and powerful rich NGOs and their local representatives.

The very use of our marine resources for the sustainable utilization of Vincentians is threatened and brought into serious focus once again. The anti whaling countries put great emphasis on their diplomatic approach and use it to the fullest extent. The leading nations in this regard dispatch their delegations and launch a proverbial siege on OECS member states during the months preceding the IWC biannual meetings. This approach is effective with the threats of negative effects on the relationship between our small island states and the powerhouses it is more than enough to grovel in the dust. The configuration of the world’s largest and richest against the weakest and smallest continues to be evident in the IWC and other international entities and systems.

Member states of the OECS, Belize and Suriname face the threats of boycotts to their vital tourism industries. It leaves some fearful, mindful of the impact on developmental issues particularly with the economic climate that we all face.

We cannot over-emphasize the use of cetaceans in many parts of the world including the Caribbean and its contribution to sustainable livelihood in coastal and island communities, food security and poverty reduction. The use of marine resources is an integral part of development options, particularly in countries which need to diversify their agriculture. Our blackfish industry is a classic example of food security and livelihood.

The lobbyists wish to bring an end to the very survival of the community that engages in this activity.

A look at the pronouncements show there is an overwhelming active anti- whaling public relations campaign in the Caribbean that goes virtually unchallenged. Large whole page Ads regularly appear in the print media in the OECS and directly target government policy on whaling matters. There is the online campaign and the cable channels to which Caribbean people are exposed. There should be no need to justify food, culture or traditions as we do at the IWC quota meetings. Who is ever asked to justify the quantity of hot dogs, burgers, and lamb steak or for that matter corned beef, sardines, sausage ham or bacon that is eaten by any people.

The region has to be mindful of the threats we face. The delicacies that we have enjoyed are now on the lists of CITES namely conch and the spiny lobster. It may just be a matter of time before a face is placed on them. The Buenos Aires groups who are at the forefront are the principal exporters of canned meats; I guess animals are not killed in the production.

Within recent times many initiatives have been advanced by NGOs that are embraced by governments, which limit the marine environment within which many depend on for food on their tables.

In the interest of our fisherfolk and the users of our marine resources there must be vigilance in their right to eat and live, we are mindful of the preservation of our marine resources we are capable of the management of the same as we have been for generations.

It is clear and evident that the vestiges and shackles of colonialism have only been removed by documentation. The overriding principles of these ills still remains in a more sophisticated form as our way of life is dictated by conventions regulations and protocols, some of which we have no choice but to conform with if we are to remain in the proverbial dogfight.

History, traditions and culture cannot be sold, they may however be suppressed by some for financial gains and profit. A people must make the determination as to variation in their culture as determined by the majority, not by lobbyists who do not speak for the people of Bequia or a minority of expats who cannot dictate policies in their own countries, as they slaughter innocent women and children in far off lands, but have the gall to use the descriptive word of barbaric with the taking of a whale for food.