False killer whale with calf © Collectie Green Heritage Fund Suriname
False killer whale with calf © Collectie Green Heritage Fund Suriname

In a few days the 66th meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) will begin in Slovenia. This time, one of the most important issues on the agenda, next to the special permits, is undoubtedly the vote on the Southern Atlantic Whale Sanctuary. This year Brazil, Argentina, Gabon, Uruguay and South Africa will table this proposal again for a vote. And again, Japan made all efforts to ensure that there would be sufficient countries supporting its position, so that they can try to prevent the Southern Atlantic Whale Sanctuary from becoming a reality.

New Surinamese whaling commissioner
In July our country appointed Mr. Randjitsingh Ramkisor, director of Carib Fisheries, as the new whaling commissioner. The fact that Mr. Ramkisor is not a government official makes this a rather unique appointment. No other country in the IWC has ever appointed a government commissioner from the private sector. Another unique fact is that Mr. Ramkisor represented Taiyo A&F Co. Ltd in a meeting in 2010 in Orlando of the Spray Polyurethane Foam Alliance. Taiyo A&F Co. Ltd. is a company that has historical ties with the Japanese commercial whalers.

Arrears in contribution
As our country had an arrears in its contributions in 2014, Suriname was not represented at the 65th IWC meeting, because Suriname did not have voting rights. However, our country not only appointed in July a new commissioner, Suriname also paid part of its arrears in contribution (around USD 9000) prior to the 30th of June and a payment arrangement was made with the IWC for the remaining outstanding contribution. Thus Suriname regained its right to vote.

Whale tourism in South America
South American whaling nations closed the hunt, conducted by Japanese satellite stations, for good in the nineteen eighties under pressure of civil society in their countries. The South American countries realized that the whales were worth more alive than dead, because jobs could be created as a result of whale tourism activities. The whales were used by this group of countries, known as the Buenos Aires Group, as an instrument for social development. Small underdeveloped communities in their countries were given an opportunity to develop by protecting cetaceans and by creating whale sanctuaries.

Suriname’s vote against the rest of South America
Suriname signed in 2014 the Declaration of Caracas in which support was promised for the work of the Buenos Aires Group in the following paragraph: “Emphasize their continued efforts to ensure the observance of the moratorium on whaling, the non-lethal and non-extractive economic use [of cetaceans], and their total support for the adoption and implementation of the proposed establishment of the Southern Atlantic Whale Sanctuary within the ambit of the International Whaling Commission.”

However, it now appears that, as in the past, Suriname again will use its vote against the rest of South America. The late Bernard Petitjean Roget stated indeed accurately that the Japanese politics are not aimed at helping the Caribbean countries to sustainably use their natural resources, its only goal is to obtain the votes of these countries within the context of the IWC. And time and again Suriname willingly colluded with Japan.

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