Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Japan and the IWC

The IWC meets in St Kitts and Nevis in June, and its looking depressingly like Japan's plan of buying support from landlocked countries with no boats, let alone history of whaling, has been successful, and that they will finally hold a majority. While this will not allow them to overturn the moratorium and restart commercial whaling, it will allow them to control meeting procedure, and make a number of other changes to advance their position. Like allowing secret ballots as a cloak for corruption. Or ending all IWC discussion of conservation work, or animal suffering. Or getting resolutions approving Japan's bogus "scientific" whaling program, and banning any discussion of whether its actually necessary to kill (and eat) whales to gather the required data. This will be a disaster for the whales - but I'm sure the rich, old Japanese who have a taste for whale will be happy.

In response, ProgBlog reminds us all why we shouldn't vote "Progressive" - but he also points out something useful: victory goes to those who organise. The Japanese have organised, and we have not. If we want to prevent them from tilting the balance towards the whalers, we need to organise in response. We should not be bribing countries to attend and vote, but we should be doing out utmost to encourage countries who share our views on the issue, but have not yet joined themselves - like Samoa, Fiji and the Cook Islands - to make their voices heard.


The question is what is wrong with your system if it is so easy for japanese to buy the result.
don't jsut get angry about them doing it - fix the system.

Posted by Genius : 4/18/2006 02:00:00 PM

Genius: its a problem inherant in any democratic system which anyone can participate. The solution domestically is to cultivate a strong culture against corruption, with stiff penalties for attempting it, as well as transparency whereever it is not outweighed by other interests. But its a lot more difficult to implement this solution at an international level.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 4/18/2006 02:59:00 PM

The moratorium on commercial whaling was passed in the first place because a whole bunch of non-whaling nations joined up to the IWC specifically to vote for it. Most of them are no longer involved, and the system is inherently vulnerable to that kind of lobbying.

A couple of years ago I went to a very interesting and (I thought) well-balanced talk by the former secretary of the IWC. He made the point that the moratorium was always framed as a management decision -- resting a depleted stock. If you know anything about the politics of setting fisheries quotas you'll realise what a can of worms is still there waiting to be opened.

Posted by Chris : 4/18/2006 04:51:00 PM

I know enough to be highly cynical. To a fisherman, a fishery is viable until the last fish is caught, and if you don't catch that fish, then someone else will. The industry tends to capture regulatory bodies, as well as government representatives where quotas must be internationally negotiated. As a result, quotas tend to be unsustainably high, leading to inevitable collapse of most "managed" fisheries. And this is exactly what will happen to whales if the moratorium is ever lifted.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 4/18/2006 05:18:00 PM

> But its a lot more difficult to implement this solution at an international level.

regardless of that, you either develop the system (even if it is difficult) - or you might as well just accept the natural outcome.

The reason why capitalism fails (fails so badly) in the case of whales is because no one owns the whales. they only become owned when they are killed and are sitting on a boat - this means there is a huge incentive in the system to change "live whale" into "dead whale".
If those whales are treated as owned (either pribatly or by a government or by the IWC, then they can set a cost required to cover administration plus maintain the asset. If that cost is infinite that is good to know.

Posted by Genius : 4/18/2006 09:16:00 PM

I can\'t see why it\'s a reminder not to vote Progressive. Prog Blog is not connected to the party (though I\'m a supporter), and I\'m pretty sure the Progressive Party policy supports the government approach. In fact, I\'m pretty sure there is an all-party consensus. That\'s why I started the point saying I felt contrary about it to how everyone else feels.

The point you haven\'t addressed is that the government\'s approach has failed. Either you accept failure, in which case more whaling of endangered species takes place, or you look for the reason and propose to do something about it.

It\'s interesting you pick up the point about organising. But success results not only from organising - it\'s organising around an idea with majority support that led to Japan reaching a position of strength in this issue. So while we need to organise, we also need to ask what we will change in our own position. Slagging everyone off, including me for asking the question, is probably not going to cut it.

On your point about landlocked countries - are you really saying they should have no say? How is that different from NZ speaking up at CITES over trade in elephant tusks, given we don\'t have any elephants or even native mammals (other than a bat)? Landlocked countries can still have a relevant interest in issues of the sea. They eat fish in most landlocked countries; they use water; they have a concern and interest in the sustainability of species. Anyway, a landlocked country won the America\'s Cup, so they know something about oceans. They are not all just ignorant stoolies of Japan. They are nations with interests and cultural mores different from ours. I\'m not a relativist, but I am a realist.

And there\'s the crux. The realist position means adapting to make gains. I think it\'s morally dubious to take an abolutist position on an issue like this, knowing it\'s a losing position, and then feel good about losing. (I feel there are issues where we should be absolutists - opposing torture, for example; it\'s just that this issue is not of that order).

And since when were secret ballots a \'cloak for corruption\'. I would have thought they could cut both ways, allowing countries to take aid from Japan and then vote against Japan, for example. Secret ballots can be deeply democratic.

Dissing me just for suggesting a different approach might count as argument to you, but I would like to know the rational response to all these issues, thanks very much. Surely \'progressive\' people are capable of winning arguments on merits, rather than just by assertion and denunciation of heretics.

Posted by Prog Blog : 4/19/2006 02:00:00 AM

I'd suggest a positive approach to this. Japan's other comemrcial interests vastly outweigh its income from whaling. I'd suggest a consumer boycott of certain Japanese businesses.

Of course, this is quite difficult in a country where 90% of cars, for instance, are made in Japan. However there is one soft target: Sony. In addition to hardware, Sony is one of the largest worldwide media businesses. So, in addition to not buying Walkmans or Playstations, don't buy music or films produced by Sony. If you really want a record by Franz Ferdinand or Michael Jackson, rip it off someone else or the net.

If enough people do that, it should hit their profits and force them (along with other Japanese companies afraid of the same treatment) to lobby the government.

Posted by Rich : 4/19/2006 12:44:00 PM

The reason why the Whaling commision is going pro-whaling is dur to the fact that the organisation allows countries with no interest in Whaling to join up.

I understand one country is actually landlocked.

These are the same reasons why the UN is one fucked up organisation thate needs reform.

What will the Greens say if the Whaling commision becomes more than 2/3rds pro-whaling?

Posted by Anonymous : 4/19/2006 03:18:00 PM