Japan accused of buying pro-whaling votes

Last year, Nicaragua became yet another unlikely nation to join the International Whaling Commission, just in time to attend the group’s annual meeting and support the lifting of an 18-year moratorium on commercial whale hunting — a policy change aggressively pushed by Japan, but not yet achieved. Japanese officials deny allegations that they have used foreign aid to buy pro-whaling votes and say that the new IWC members are being influenced by emerging scientific evidence about population recovery in some species. But some enviros believe poor nations such as Nicaragua, land-locked Mongolia, and a handful of small Caribbean islands are more likely under the influence of dollar signs (or yen signs, to be more accurate), and perhaps a bit too much sake. And who can blame them? Since 1990, Nicaragua alone has received an average of $41 million annually from Japan. Sound fishy? Miguel Marenco, Nicaragua’s new whaling commissioner, says it’s not: “We never think in terms of favors. We think in terms of keeping a balance in nature.”