Dáil Éireann - Volume 506 - 03 June, 1999

Written Answers. - Wildlife Conservation.

23. Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands if she will report progress on Ireland's proposal to set up an international whale sanctuary; the position of the International Whaling Organisation in regard to this proposal; when this proposal will be finally adopted; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14702/99]

24. Mr. Sargent asked the Minister for Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands if she will agree to a request for a meeting from Voice of Irish Concern for the Environment to outline the support of 125 conservation groups worldwide, 52 of which are Irish based, for positive strategy for the International Whaling Commission while opposing any attempt to re-introduce the Irish proposals on whaling; and if she will make a statement on the matter. [14710/99]

Minister for Arts, Heritage, Gaeltacht and the Islands (Miss de Valera): I propose to take Questions Nos. 23 and 24 together.

[97] In 1997 at the 49th Meeting of the International Whaling Commission, IWC, Ireland put forward a package of proposals designed to stimulate discussion and promote consensus among the member countries of the IWC. That package proposed the completion of the revised management scheme, where quotas are justified under the RMS, these should be restricted to coastal areas only, whales taken under these quotas would be used for local consumption only, lethal scientific whaling should be phased out over a period, and regulations on whale watching should be prepared. The context in which the proposals were put forward was the continuing concern among many member states regarding the serious impasse reached within the IWC in relation to fundamental issues on whaling and the steady increase in the number of whales taken each year outside the control of the commission. Despite the moratorium on commercial whaling, Ireland noted that whaling was continuing to take place within the terms of the convention under objection to the moratorium or under Article VIII, scientific whaling. The trend in the number of whales taken, identified as being of concern then, has continued, with 383 whales being taken in 1992, 1,043 whales in 1997 and 1,114 in 1998.

The proposals put forward by Ireland provide a basis for the resolution of the serious conflict of views within the commission and sought to stimulate a process of discussion and debate within the IWC. Ireland's objective has been and continues to be that of reaching consensus within the IWC on a package of measures for the control and regulation of whaling. These proposals were the subject of further discussion at the most recent IWC meeting held in Grenada in May. At that meeting all countries indicated a continuing willingness to engage in the process of discussion. I am also pleased to record that IUCN, the world conservation union, has welcomed the proposals made by Ireland. In particular, there was strong and encouraging support for this process from the middle ground countries who perceive the proposals put forward by Ireland as providing the basis for a resolution of the serious ongoing conflict between the pro and anti-whaling countries within the commission. It is this conflict which has led to the serious impasse within the commission and has the potential to damage the effectiveness of the IWC and its recent achievements in whale conservation. Resolution of the fundamental conflict within the IWC will not be easy and while countries have indicated a willingness to engage in the necessary process of discussion, the difficulties in achieving a consensus on a solution cannot be underestimated. Accordingly, it is not possible at this stage to place any time scale on the Irish or any other proposals which may be put forward to resolve the ongoing impasse.

In my view, a strong and effective IWC represents the single most important element for the [98] conservation of whale species in the new millennium. To be strong and effective it must be representative and credible to all constituent countries irrespective of their strongly held views and opinions. This is the challenge facing the IWC and more importantly represents the challenge to member countries to ensure the ongoing conservation of whale species. Ireland will continue through the IWC to facilitate in whatever way possible the process of dialogue and compromise necessary to secure consensus on a package of measures to limit whaling so that the conservation status of any whale population is not compromised.

I will be happy to arrange a meeting between my officials and representatives of the organisation, Voice of Irish Concern for the Environment, to discuss all aspects of this important conservation issue. I am aware of the proposals being put forward by Voice. These proposals while well intentioned and idealistic are not very practical as they appear to ignore the fact that we cannot unilaterally remove the rights of whaling countries under the convention without their consent.