Denmark threatens to leave IWC

The Danish government has broad support in the parliament to leave The International Whaling Commission at the end of the year as a consequence of Greenland’s unilateral increase of their whaling quota. The Danish government does not adopt the Greenlandic argument, that IWC is the villain by breaching the convention when ignoring the scientific advice. The government in Nuuk wants the Kingdom of Denmark to stay in the whaling commission.

By Claus Djørup. Translation: Bodil Marie Sørensen
Conflict between the Danish Government and that of Greenland is imminent, because Foreign Secretary Villy Søvndal wants to withdraw the Kingdom of Denmark from The International Whaling Commission before New Year’s Eve, if no solution for Greenland’s unilateral increase of their whaling quota by one humpback whale and nine fin whales is found.

- The increase is a breach of the convention, which means that Denmark in solidarity with Greenland must withdraw from the IWC, Mr Søvndal reasons.

- Greenland wants the IWC to be maintained for the regulation of whaling, but clearly based on sustainable use. The organization needs to be strengthened from within for this purpose, emphazises the Greenlandic minister Karl Lyberth, who is responsible for fishing, hunting and agriculture.

The increase by ten whales to a total of 221 is in accordance with the biological recommendations, so Denmark must remain in the IWC and make sure, that the organization is a whaling commission, and not a whale conservation commission, argue the two Greenlandish members of the Danish parliament (Folketinget), Doris Jacobsen (Siumut) and Sara Olsvig (IA). Both are members of Inatsisartut (The Parliament of Greenland).

Søvndal: Membership of IWC is incompatible with breach of Convention
- Greenland wants to increase the whaling quota by ten. Denmark has supported this, and it is in accordance with the biological recommendations by IWC´s own biologists. In spite of this, IWC has not wished to embrace the suggestion of an increase in whaling, states Villy Søvndal.

- We must face the consequences. If we fail to convince the International Whaling Commission, it goes without saying, that we cannot be member of a club if we do not abide with the convention, which we have signed, Mr. Søvndal continues.

The Foreign Secretary still has a small hope to convince the IWC, which alone has the rights to make decisions.

It will be a first if Denmark withdraws from the convention.

– Interests are at stake. From Greenland`s perspective, there is a principle, and an understandable point-of-view: It is difficult to understand that it cannot be allowed, when IWC`s own biologists argue, that it is sustainably and scientifically founded to fish on that scale. We fully share the viewpoint of Greenland, Villy Søvndal says.

- We have been discussing between Denmark and Greenland how best to fight the mutual battle. It is the wish of both parties to give in to scientific, sustainable reasoning, he points out.

The Kingdom versus EU
The Danish step might inspire other countries to withdraw.

It isolates Denmark further within the EU, where the other members and the EU Commission are against Greenland`s wishes.

- That is just the way it is. Sometimes points-of-views will differ in international politics. Our opinion is, that Greenland is right, and we ought to follow the biological recommendations, concludes Villy Søvndal.

At IWC`s General Meeting last year, all EU countries except Denmark were against the increase by nine finwhales and one humpback whale.

According to the majority it could not be about indigenous people`s fishing, as whalemeat is sold in shops and in restaurants.

IWC’s scientific committee had concluded that this increase would not pose a threat to the said whale stock, and did fulfill IWC’s conditions.

Villy Søvndal has general support in the Danish Parliament for the argument of breach of conventions.

Doris Jacobsen: Incomprehensible statement
On the question, whether or not we breach the convention, Greenland and Denmark disagree. Greenland believes that we do not breach conventions by increasing quotas. We fail to understand that the Government (in Copenhagen) thinks that we do not comply with the rules, says Doris Jacobsen.

- The membership of the IWC is very important to Greenland. I believe, that we must maintain Denmark’s membership. It is unacceptable, that Denmark withdraws from the Whaling Commission, she continues. That is why Villy Søvndal’s announcement about breach of convention is frustrating Doris Jacobsen. She calls for the Danish and Greenlandish Governments to discuss solutions.

Greenland considers whaling to be an occupation like any other, and we have a sustainable manner of catching, says Doris Jacobsen.

- IWC manages sustainable catching of big whales based on scientific advice. IWC is not a conservation organization. Greenland works solely with quotas within the limits, which IWC’s own advisors set, concludes Doris Jacobsen.

Sara Olsvig: Cultural imperialism
The question is, if there is agreement within the Realm (Denmark + Greenland) about whether or not there is a breach of convention. Is it a breach of convention when you assign an increased quota to yourself, when this quota remains within the limits of the Whaling Commission’s own recommendations? asks Sara Olsvig, who is going to put the question to the naalakkersuisut (Greenland’s government).

- It is the Whaling Commission who has a problem, not Greenland. The increase of the quota is based on the Whaling Commission’s own scientific committee’s proposals, she points out.

It is the Whaling Commission and the international community who once again act on a basis of cultural imperialism, as opposed to pracmatism and sustainable management of the natural resources, Sara Olsvig makes known.

- We have assigned ourselves quotas out of necessity. Our law says, that our fishermen and whalers must know, what they have to abide by, she explains.

The Right to live off Nature.
Sara Olsvig wants Greenland to remain in the Whale-catching-Commission. The word “catch” is pronounced with emphasis to illustrate that IWC is NOT a whale conservation commission, but manages quota of big whales.

The international community is in disagreement with Greenland concerning seals, ice bears, and walrusses as well.

- It is about living off the resources in our part of the world, and it is about living and developing communities in the Arctic, says Sara Olsvig.

The alternative could be The Northatlantic Marine Mammal Organization.

- Our primary wish is to be heard in the IWC. What alternative is there for Greenlandish participation in international management of living resources, such as whales, if the Kingdom withdraws from the IWC? Sara Olsvig says. Shew points at NAMMCO as a possibility.

The North Atlantic Mammal Animal Commission was founded by Norway, Iceland, Faroe Isles and Greenland in 1992, and this organization manages the quotas for small whales and seals. It might possibly be extended to include big whales. (Dj/210613)

Translation: Bodil Marie Sørensen, bodil@andreas-sorensen.com

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