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David @ Tokyo

Perspective from Japan on whaling and whale meat, a spot of gourmet news, and monthly updates of whale meat stockpile statistics



IWC 2006: NZ Labour's Shane Jones on whaling

An interesting news item from earlier this year was that of one of the New Zealand Labour Party's young stars, Shane Jones (pictured) questioning the orthodox anti-whaling policy of his Party, and indeed the New Zealand government in general.
Labour MP Shane Jones, who remains the chairman of Te Ohu Kaimoana, despite becoming an MP in November, has several times refused to comment to the Herald about the whaling issue, including whether he supports the Government's position on whaling or whether he believes it is consistent with Te Ohu's policy on whaling.
In Parliament, National MP Simon Power raised the matter during Question Time:

Simon Power: Does the Minister agree with the comments of future Labour leader Shane Jones, who was reported in the New Zealand Herald on 8 November 2000 as saying: “The Green movement’s disgust over commercial whaling was a Pakeha cultural perspective only.”; if not, why not?

Hon Dr MICHAEL CULLEN: No. The member was not speaking in a Labour Party role at that point

Power also had this to say in a press release:

Conflict looms over Labour’s whaling policy

National’s Conservation spokesman, Simon Power, says there is a problem looming for Labour because the man picked by many to be their next leader does not agree with their stance on maintaining the moratorium on whaling.

“Shane Jones told the New Zealand Herald in his capacity as Waitangi Fisheries Commission chairman that the Green movement’s ‘disgust’ over commercial whaling was a Pakeha perspective only.

“He has also said Maori want sustainable management, not conservation, of whales and that they want to use sustainable harvest methods on albatrosses, muttonbirds, godwits and penguins.

The National Party were of course trying to make some mud stick on the Labour Party here. Domestically, supporting whaling isn't generally a good look, yet Shane Jones is not alone in his stance. Many Maori do support the notion of whale consumption:
For the Maori people of New Zealand, whales have special importance. They are believed to be the guardians and protectors of those on oceanic voyages and, when the animals strand, they are regarded as a gift from Tangaroa, the god of the sea, to the people on land for their use. This customary use included consumption of the meat, recovery of oil for lighting, the preservation of wood and working the bones and teeth of sperm whales into a variety of tools, weapons and ornaments.
Archie Tairoa represented Maori at the World Council of Whalers forum in 2000, that was held in Nelson, New Zealand. New Zealand's Stuff news site noted his support for whaling:
Maori support the right of other indigenous peoples to carry on their traditional whaling practices provided the hunting is sustainable, Treaty of Waitangi Fisheries director Archie Taiaroa says.
"We have always given support to indigenous people to continue to carry out their practices if whaling has been part of their culture - providing, of course, that the resource is sustainable. There may be species of whales that are not sustainable to hunt," Mr Taiaroa said.

Maori had a right to whales beached on New Zealand coasts because using them was traditional. Before European settlement, 200 to 2000 whales beached on New Zealand coasts every year - "more than enough for our purposes".

"It was easy access. They came and offered themselves to us, and then those silly Pakehas came along and killed them all off."

And Maori should be consulted before government supported international measures like the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary established in 1994, or the proposed South Pacific Whale Sanctuary.

"They should come and talk with us. They haven't. What it does is cut out our right to participate in those discussions."

Another bugbear was the fact that whalebone carvings could not be sold overseas because of New Zealand's participation in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.

"Our carvers of that sort of bone need some income to be able to sustain themselves."

A commercial outlet would ensure the knowledge and techniques that went with carving whalebone would be kept.

The bone was different and more durable than the beef bone that had replaced it for most carvers, Mr Taiaroa said.

He supported the research needed to monitor world whale numbers.

(For my international readers, "Pakeha" is a word given by Maori to the European settlers, or "white people")

The New Zealand government has never properly represented the beliefs of this particular Maori perspective at the IWC. Even former New Zealand Conservation Minister, Sandra Lee, herself a Maori, never spoke in support of any form of whaling, although she did once describe the activity as "despicable". Current Green MP Metiria Turei also has spoken out against whaling.

One wonders whether Maori politicians in mainstream New Zealand parties are gagged from representing their constituents on this issue, for fear of a backlash amongst the majority of the electorate, which is Pakeha.

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