CaribWorldNews, MADEIRA, Portugal, Tues. June 23, 2009: Imagine belonging to a highly specialized international body and your country, a developing nation is forced to pay as much or even more than some of the world`s rich and prosperous states in Europe and elsewhere?
Sounds absurd? Well, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, the Caribbean`s lone whaling nation, thinks it`s wrong; dead wrong, for it to be asked to pay the equivalent of (EC)$1 for every man, woman and child on its soil in order to meet its financial and other obligations to the International Whaling Commission. This is required to attend meetings and otherwise carrying out the functions of membership of the 80-plus nation Commission which is now meeting this week in Madeira, an autonomous region of Portugal.
That`s why it plans to raise the issue of dues and the formula used to determine how much each country pays when the IWC`s meeting continues.
`We are being penalized unfairly for having a long tradition of whaling in our country and we believe that the IWC should look at its formula again,` said Edwin Snagg, St. Vincent`s Commissioner who is also Director of Grenadine Affairs in the Administration of Dr. Ralph Gonsalves. `There is really no way that we should be asked to pay the kind of dues we now pay, the same as some rich nations. There is room for discussion and a reduction of the dues.
`When you consider that in a year we have to spend about (EC)$100,000 in dues and expenses to service membership, you would see the burden it places on us to be a member of the IWC. We have to belong to the IWC because we are a whaling country, in keeping with our tradition. Whaling is part of the culture of country and that`s why I say that we are being penalized.`
Anthony Liverpool, Antigua`s Commissioner and Chairman of the IWC`s Committee for Finance and Administration, agrees with Snagg.
`Yes, there is a formula and we believe that St. Vincent has a strong case which it plans to make to the IWC this week, said Liverpool. `St. Vincent is going to find that it has considerable support in and out of the Caribbean when the matter comes up. Some countries feel the formula should be adjusted so that you pay on the basis of population size and economy. Antigua & Barbuda certainly plans to support our neighbor on this, no questions asked.`
As Snagg explained it, his country pays the equivalent of (EC)$ 58,000 annually, just over (US)$ 20,000 and when the cost of sending a one person delegation to meetings in London, Rome, Japan or elsewhere is added to the bill. `It works out to be about $100,000,` he said.
The country`s representative said that it was forced to find the money for several reasons. At the top of the list, is the fact that whaling has been a part of St. Vincent`s life for more than a century. Secondly, as a member of the international community, it feels obligated to be represented at IWC meetings lest decisions be taken in its absence that could undermine the traditional practice.
On top of that, St. Vincent has been allocated a quota of whales under the IWC aboriginal subsistence whaling program that also benefits the United States, Russia and Denmark.
`We are given a quota of whales and sometimes we don`t even catch the number of whales allotted to us,` Snagg said. `That shows how unfair the system and why we insist that changes must be made. Japan backs St. Vincent`s position.’
Five Caribbean countries – Antigua, St. Vincent, St. Lucia, St. Kitts-Nevis and Grenada belong to the IWC and are represented at the five day meeting which ends on Friday.
Jeannine Compton, a marine scientist who is St. Lucia`s IWC Commissioner and a member of the country`s parliament in Castries, said that like the rest of the Eastern Caribbean, her island-nation wants St. Vincent`s onerous costs to be reduced.
`The case is strong and St. Vincent intends to take it to the floor of the meeting and we are supporting it,` was the way she put it.
St. Vincent can also bank on the support from St. Kitts-Nevis, which is represented in Madeira by the Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Cedri Liburd, and by Grenada whose chief Fisheries Officer, Justin Rennie is the country`s Commissioner.
The matter is expected to be discussed in a few days.