Latin American member states of the International Whaling Commission (CBI) came to Costa Rica this week to devise new ways to protect whales in their waters.
Known as the Buenos Aires Group (GBA) after they formed in the Argentinean capital last year, the members spent the week at the Hotel Bougainvillea, in Santo Domingo de Heredia, discussing their successes and challenges.
The GBA is putting together a plan that would promote, in addition to sanctuaries for the enormous mammals, other activities that protect whales and dolphins, according to a statement released by the Environment, Energy and Telecommunications Ministry (MINAET).
The group, which includes Costa Rica, Panama, Brazil, Argentina, Mexico and Chile, previously met in June in Chile, which last month passed a law making its Pacific waters a whale sanctuary.
Costa Rican President Oscar Arias did the same in January, forbidding the “pursuit, capture, injury, netting or commercialization” of all whale and dolphin species on the country’s 640,000 squarekilometer marine territory, the largest in Central America (TT, Jan. 25).
Costa Rica’s waters are critical feeding and breeding grounds for at least five species of whales from both hemispheres, and have recently become a well-known stop on the whale-watching circuit.
Whale watching, mostly in the Southern Pacific Golfo Dulce, generates millions of dollars for the Costa Rican economy.
Costa Rica has been behind in its dues to the commission since the 1980s, and a debt of nearly $1 million almost kept the country from participating in a CBI vote in May 2007 on whether to maintain or lift the 1986 international whaling ban. A down payment of more than $30,000 – paid in part by non-governmental organizations – allowed Costa Rica to cast its vote in favor of keeping the whaling ban (TT, June 1, 2007).
According to MINAET, Japan and Norway will have killed an estimated 2,500 whales by the end of the year through hunting for commercial and scientific purposes, a practice opposed by GBA.