A ship used by environmental group Greenpeace to confront Japanese whaling ships in the Southern Ocean has been refused permission to dock in the Caribbean island state of St. Kitts and Nevis, where a global whaling group will meet this week.
Greenpeace said Tuesday that the authorities in the former British colony, which has sided with Japan in a long-running and emotional dispute over a 20-year ban on commercial whaling, did not give a reason for denying entry to the MY Arctic Sunrise.
“We are shocked that St. Kitts has banned the Arctic Sunrise and can only assume that the government of Japan has convinced the St. Kitts authorities to prevent us from entering in the hope that our criticism of whaling will be silenced,” John Bowler of Greenpeace International said in a statement.
Japan, Norway, Iceland and other pro-whaling nations expect to have a slim majority for the first time in 20 years when the International Whaling Commission meets in St. Kitts from June 16-20.
While they will not have the 75 percent of votes they need to overturn the whaling moratorium imposed in 1986 to save the Earth’s largest creatures from extinction, they are expected to pass several measures designed to turn the IWC away from conservation.
The whaling nations argue that some whale species, such as the small minke, have recovered and do not need to be protected. They also say whale hunting is a cherished part of their cultural heritage.
Anti-whaling nations led by Australia and South Africa say whaling is a cruel abuse of the majestic creatures. They argue that whale watching is more profitable than killing them.
Greenpeace said St. Kitts had always voted with Japan since it joined the commission in 1992.
A spokesman for the St. Kitts and Nevis government could not be reached for comment.
The Caribbean nation’s senior fisheries officer, Joe Simmonds, has criticized anti-whaling countries for allowing emotion to triumph over science.
“The IWC is very polarized and there are those who are saying no whaling at all. It is normally based on emotions, such as we like to see whales, they are very intelligent,” Simmonds said in April, according to a government statement.
“For fisheries management or any type of management of wild species we cannot and should not make decisions based on emotions,” he said.