IAN Campbell dropped to his knees before Pacific island delegates at the recent International Whaling Commission conference in St Kitts in a desperate bid to persuade them to vote on the side of conservation.
The Federal Environment Minister wasn’t on the floor begging, but instead drawing a huge map of the Pacific to point out the migratory patterns of the humpback and convince the select gathering that the whales were no threat to fish stocks.
Returning to Canberra this week, Senator Campbell told The West Australian he believed the incident was a turning point at the conference that helped the anti-whaling bloc win a number of key IWC votes.
His cartographic attempt took place on day one of the IWC meeting at a specially-convened lunch Senator Campbell and his New Zealand counterpart Chris Carter hosted for the Pacific island nations.
The islands had already voted with Japan in a failed attempt to exclude the conservation of dolphins and small whales, but after the lunch some abstained on other key votes and prevented the Japanese from orchestrating a bigger upset at the IWC than the one they achieved.
“I actually got down on my hands and knees and drew a map on the floor of Antarctica and Australia and the Pacific and described the migration pattern and that the humpbacks basically eat krill,” Senator Campbell said.
“I said they eat it for many, many months. They basically fill up the gas tank and go on their annual migration and they don’t eat fish.
“They (Pacific islanders) said the humpbacks can’t go for nine months without food and I said ‘well they do, that’s why they’ve got so much blubber and everyone used to kill them for oil’.
“I said ‘not everyone knows that they don’t eat fish, but the Japanese do know it yet they tell you otherwise’.”
The Minister said he was “very disappointed” that the Marshall Islands voted with Japan across the board, but he said the special relationship Australia has with Kiribati and the Solomon Islands paid off.
“I think the big outcome was that we did get some key abstentions from the Solomons and Kiribati, they kept their word,” Senator Campbell said.
“Our relationships with those countries have developed and we keep working on them. It’s not like we’re getting a lot out of them, but we’re getting enough to make a difference.”
Kiribati, Solomon Islands and Tuvalu abstained from various votes, but all joined Japan in supporting a successful non-binding motion to denigrate the moratorium on commercial whaling.
The Solomon’s delegate has been accused of venturing down the same path as his predecessor at last year’s IWC conference and voting with Japan on some key votes even though it was against the directions of his government’s cabinet decision.
Chris Johnson, in Canberra
“They (Pacific islanders) said the humpbacks can’t go for nine months without food and I said ‘well they do, that’s why they’ve got so much blubber and everyone used to kill them for oil’. “I said ‘not everyone knows that they don’t eat fish, but the Japanese do know it yet they tell you otherwise’.”