Suriname No Longer Supports Whaling

Suriname is changing its position of supporting Japan in whale hunting. The country has for years supported Japan, which has always been heavily involved in commercial whaling. Suriname’s change of heart follows on the heels of an announcement that the Japanese are suspending their annual forage of whales in the Antarctic. There is also a marked concern for how oil drilling may affect the environment, for example, Suriname’s population of melon-headed whales (Peponocephala electra).

“Suriname previously had a different standpoint, but our views have changed. This Government is not for commercial whaling. These endangered animals must be protected. When it concerns whaling for scientific research we may agree, but the mass slaughter of whales for human consumption? We cannot support that!” Foreign Affairs minister Winston Lackin told De Ware Tijd daily. He said Suriname wants to add whales, including dolphins in Surinamese waters to its bio-diversity to attract tourists. Suriname’s new stance was announced at the 64th annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC), which was concluded in Panama last week. Suriname, a member since 2004, did not send a representative this year.

Recent research into the effects oil drilling may have on the environment, showed that the waters off Suriname are inhabited by vast numbers of melon-headed whales (Peponocephala electra, also called many-toothed blackfish and electra dolphin).

Japan, where whaling may have begun as early as the 12th century, maintains that this industry is sustainable and necessary for scientific study and management of whale stocks. The country has always argued that objections to whaling are based upon cultural differences and emotional anthropomorphism. Meat from the scientific whale hunts is sold in shops and restaurants, which is allowed under a loophole in the rules of the IWC, although most IWC members oppose it.

But lately the Japanese seem to have had their own a change of heart. The country’s whaling fleet has an assigned quota of about 1000 whales a season, but reports suggest that less and less are harpooned. Last year, Nisshin Maru, Japan’s whaling fleet’s mother ship, has refrained from hunting to ensure the crew’s safety from environmentalists’ guerrilla attacks. International pressure could be a factor.

One other factor could be that some Japan lawmakers are reportedly in favour of Japan stepping into line with the international community on the whaling issue. But it could also be that the Japanese appetite for whale meat is waning.

Rene Lieveld, Acting Director at the Agriculture Ministry told De Ware Tijd daily that actually Suriname didn’t actually support whaling, but rather backed Japan out of solidarity. He said Japan’s stance always found support from the Caricom’s Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism, which always believed that Japan does want to conduct research and whale sustainable. Without research there obviously is no telling how much can be whaled.

Still not everybody in Suriname supported the country’s support of Japan. In 2010, the Green Heritage Fund Suriname and the Green Heritage Fund Suriname called on the then Government to “make our voice heard and resound with a forceful ‘NO’ to whaling. The organizations collected hundreds of signatures for a petition, urging Government to no longer support Japan, Norway and Iceland in killing whales; withdraw from the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling.

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