From: Adam Raney, Associated Press
Published June 26, 2006 12:00 AM

Environmental Groups Wouldn't Support Caribbean Tourism Boycott

PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad — Environmental groups on Friday said they would not support a tourism boycott against the six Caribbean countries that voted to chip away at the 20-year-old ban on commercial whaling at the International Whaling Commission meeting.

Responding to reports of the possible ban, Patrick Ramage, spokesman for the conservation group International Fund for Animal Welfare, said it was better to engage with developing Caribbean nations that sided with Japan on the issue.

"We actually think an increase in money spent on whale watching and eco-tourism will lead the Caribbean to an anti-whaling position," Ramage said.

Six Caribbean countries -- Antigua, Dominica, Grenada, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and St. Kitts -- voted for a resolution that called the commercial whale hunting ban unnecessary.

The resolution -- which passed by a margin of one vote -- was largely symbolic. It did not affect the ban on commercial whaling since pro-whaling countries need a 75 percent majority to overturn it. Still it was the first victory for the pro-whaling side since the ban was enacted.

After the resolution's passage, reports in the Los Angeles Times and other publications said opponents of whaling might boycott the six Caribbean island nations.

Mike Townsley, spokesman for environmental group Greenpeace, said there have been some rumblings to take action against the islands, but that no major environmental group has organized a boycott.

"The IWC is already extremely divided. A boycott would just increase that division and strengthen the grip that Japan has on these countries," Townsley said.

Opponents have accused Japan of buying support by paying the dues and providing more than US$100 million (euro80 million) in aid over the past five years to the six Caribbean nations that backed the resolution, a charge Japan and the other countries have repeatedly denied.

Japan and Iceland hunt whales under the auspices of scientific research -- which critics call a sham. Norway ignores the ban altogether.

Although major environmental groups have denied plans of a boycott, tourism operators in the region worry that the pro-whaling stance of their governments will deter visitors.

"If people associate us with killing whales it could damage the tourism sector," said Simon Walsh, who leads whale watching tours in Dominica, which relies heavily on nature tourism.

Joanne Massiah, who represented Antigua at the whaling conference, said, "Those who said they would cut off tourism -- the lifeblood to our region -- are making terrorist threats."

Source: Associated Press

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