Jul 9, 2012

Hands off the whales, Te Ohu Kaimoana

Take heed, Maori corporates:

At the end of the day, Maori and other indigenous people need to be vigilant to ensure that we are never used as stalking horses by those seeking a resumption of commercial whaling interests. We also must never ourselves be guilty of cultural double-standards by being selective in espousing our cultural relationship with these amazing ancient mammals of the deep.

For my own people, at least, we must balance our customary use of the material from stranded whales against our other relationship with them. Some iwi regard the whale as an ancestor. My own iwi holds to the tradition that we were guided here by one. Perhaps the best message that iwi can contribute is that the whale has sustained indigenous people all the world over in times past, when the animals were not massively hunted, and now we indigenous people have a duty to sustain these amazing creatures for their own sake.

That’s a quote from one of my role models, Sandra Lee, in her address to the World Council of Whalers. It’s a quote that, in light of recent noises from Te Ohu Kaimoana, is still relevant today.

Te Ohu Kaimonana (TOKM), the Maori fisheries body, has reaffirmed support for indigenous whaling. While I have no problem with whaling for basic sustenance, I object to whaling for profit. Reading between and beyond the lines, TOKM support for indigenous whaling appears to be an attempt to test the waters (excuse the pun). Peter Douglas, the CEO TOKM, told the Otago Daily Times that his organisation would be interested in taking meat from stranded whales unable to be saved. TOKM is not, apparently, interested in other whaling activities. Well, this contradicts previous actions. Metiria Turei points out that TOKM have hosted commercial whaling organisations and prepared and presented papers on the economics and trade of whaling.

Maori were participants on European whaling ships and would often harvest stranded whales (given they were dead and the appropriate rituals were performed). However, in many areas of the country whales are considered sacred. In my own iwi, Ngati Awa, there is a legend about a whale called Tutarakauika. Many iwi have tales of whales, tohunga and so on. The tales usually serve to denote the status of whales in the particular area. With that in mind, I’d find it culturally offensive for other Maori to engage in whale hunting, hell even harvesting dead whales is offensive not only to my cultural beliefs, but my conservation values.

In any event, Maori whaling in 2012 would not be done along cultural lines. It would be done, I can assure you, for profit. That is repugnant. As I said, whaling for sustenance is acceptable, but whaling for profit is not. There are other ways to make money and create jobs without having to hunt such a precious and in many cases threatened species.

There is something not quite right in TOKM. The organisation’s lax and inadequate response to slave fishing in our waters left much to be desired. Why, I ask, was TOKM more concerned with their profit margins than with the abuses that were occurring on the vessels they contracted? Why, I ask, is TOKM making noises around whaling? Why, I ask, has TOKM forgotten good corporate values and sound cultural values? Why, I ask, is TOKM just driven by profit?


  1. "In any event, Maori whaling in 2012 would not be done along cultural lines. It would be done, I can assure you, for profit"

    You seem very sure of this despite pretty clear assertions to the contrary... what are you basing this off? You're pretty much calling TOKM liars. Why shouldn't we believe their reassurances? The idea that a Maori organisation would abide to Maori cultural norms seems like it would require a pretty high bar to be disproven.

  2. TOKM are morally bankrupt, they have no mandate from Maori to support their views on whale killing which if one was cynical would say that they are the same views are those of Japanese companies who hold a large shareholding stake in Sealord. Godfrey is right to question TOKM who exhibit all the nasty bottom line tenancies of multinational companies. TOKM are yet another example of a narrow commercial Maori interest masquerading as the only Maori interest or opinion. TOKM's excuse for slavery was on economic grounds. That speaks heaps about their attitude about workers rights & conditions, Unsurprisingly they have the same dreadful mentality about a sentient species under threat.

  3. TOKM have never hidden the fact that they are supportive of a return to commercial whaling. Theyve hosted all sorts of conferences on it and have presented papers on the economics and trade of commercial whaling. Interesting given they have no mandate to talk about sea mammals. Aotearoa Fisheries were in business with Nissui who were major commerical whalers.

  4. Fair comments about TOKM's silence on 'slave labour' on foreign fishing vessels, but there is a long history around the issue of subsistence whaling of other indigenous peoples. TOKM are keeping open a space in very troubled negotiations at the International Whaling Commission (IWC)for continued subsistence quotas for indigenous communities, particularly Inuit, but also the Makah. I might have missed something but there is no talk of resuming whaling here in Aotearoa. This is more an issue of supporting other indigenous peoples' customary practices and TOKM are one of the few voices prepared to brave the wrath. Still on the issue of whaling, this week NZ decried South Korea's statment of intent to resume scientific whaling. While agreeing with this stance, isn't this a bit rich of the same government opening up mining in a World Heritage Site and announcing today that the Department of Conservation (DOC) approved an extension to an open cast gold mine on the West Coast with the knowledge that it will kill and displace more than 1,000 birds and animals? An assessment written by DOC and leaked to 3 News, says 20 native bird species will be affected, including threatened birds like the kaka and bush falcon. A thousand indigenous birds will be displaced, and a large number of slow moving and non mobile animals - like lizards and bird chicks - will die." (TV3 news item tonight) Anonymous - I've never ever heard that TOKM want a return to commercial whaling.

  5. Harvesting even stranded whales is out? Really? They are a gift from Tangaroa in my iwi.
    And in conservation terms that is making use of a resource rather than just burying it.

  6. International Whaling Commission rejects setting quota for Greenland’s indigenous groups

    The Washington Post at:http://www.washingtonpost.com/world/international-whaling-commission-rejects-setting-quota-for-greenlands-indigenous-groups/2012/07/05/gJQAlcM8PW_story.html

    Indigenous Portal at: http://www.indigenousportal.com/News/-International-Whaling-Commission-rejects-setting-quota-for-Greenland’s-indigenous-groups.html

    By Associated Press, Published: July 5

    PANAMA CITY — The International Whaling Commission has rejected a request from Denmark for a whaling quota for indigenous groups in Greenland.
    The commission voted 34-25 to reject the request for a quota of 1,300 whales over the next six years.
    The Thursday vote by the commission comes two days after it approved the renewal of bowhead whale quotas for indigenous subsistence whaling in Alaska and Russia and for St. Vincent and the Grenadines in the Caribbean. The six-year extension was approved at the IWC’s annual meeting in Panama City.



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