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Vote trading threatens the integrity of the International Whaling Commission

Statement by Andrea Figari, Programme Manager, Transparency International

Transparency International joins the numerous environmental organisations that have expressed concern about allegations of corruption through vote trading in the International Whaling Commission (IWC).

Special interests influencing decision-making at the upcoming IWC meeting in St. Kitts 16 – 20 June, would compromise the Commission’s integrity and purpose and ending much of the IWC's whale conservation work.

There is widespread concern that undue influence through vote trading will enable the overturn of previously established conservation measures, such as the whaling moratorium of 1982 and the Antarctic Ocean Whale sanctuary.

If these allegations are correct, it would mean that special interests would jeopardise the very purpose of the IWC: to provide for the proper conservation of whale stocks, while at the same time threatening the ability of some countries to make independent decisions.

In 2001, these allegations moved the IWC to adopt a resolution on transparency, within the IWC, endorsing the “complete independence of sovereign countries to decide their own policies and freely participate in the IWC without undue interference or coercion from other sovereign countries.” However, the issue of vote trading has continued to be widely reported. In numerous statements public officials have admitted to exerting or accepting influence to vote in one direction at past IWC meetings. Vote buying issue was discussed in the IWC meeting in 2004.

In the light of the upcoming IWC meeting this week, Transparency International TI calls on the IWC to establish the necessary means to investigate and clarify these allegations, so that the Commission can dedicate its time to the work for which it was established.

The International Whaling Commission was formed in 1946, with 15 members “to protect all species of whales from further over fishing.” In 1982, the IWC declared a moratorium on all commercial whaling. At the time, the IWC there were 37 active members, seven of which supported continued whaling. At its last meeting in Korea in 2005, it had 66 active members and 23 of them voted in support of whaling, with allegations of vote trading playing a significant role in the final decisions.

Note to media: For more information please see the Global Corruption Report 2004, “Vote buying at the International whaling Commission,” by Leslie Busby.


Transparency International is the global civil society organisation leading the fight against corruption.

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Andrea Figari
Sarah Tyler

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