One whale worth $1 million in ecotourism to Dominica

ROSEAU, Dominica, May 28, 2007 – A former government minister of Dominica has slammed Japan as a colonising force in some Caribbean countries by forcing them into unsustainable development positions in exchange for foreign aid.

Atherton Martin, a former minister of agriculture, took the fight to the heart of Japan terming the actions of the government “undignified and disrespectful” in a speech on “The Influence of Japan’s Foreign Aid to My Country“.

“(This) is not about whales and whaling but about our development, our right as a people as to how we utilise our own resources, the main issue is development and development is about people. There are many who do not believe that you can have development without seeing an improvement in the lives of people and I am one of them,” he told an audience in Tokyo on May 19 in a Greenpeace-sponsored meeting.

“For 500 years we had other people telling us how to use own resources. We had the French, the British, the Americans, the Dutch and today we have the Japanese; and our experience of slavery and colonisation is something we thought we had left behind us, but this whaling issue and relationship of Japan to Caribbean seems to have brought back this issue of colonisation.”

He said Japan was using its wealth to “buy small nations” and charged that it was buying the votes of small nations at the meetings of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) to support its bid to legally restart commercial whaling while at the same time doling out propaganda. Whaling would be beneficial to Japan but detrimental to Dominica’s economy, he said.

“(They are) using your taxpayer money to force our little countries to do things which are not in our interest,” he charged. “We invite visitors to come to Dominica to watch whales (so) how is it possible to invite you to watch whales and then go to the IWC and support Japan (in) the killing of whales?” he asked.

“We want cooperation and respect not domination because of money, we want truth and fact and not propaganda that whales are eating (up all the) fish … we know it is humans that are over fishing not whales.”

He said Dominica discovered whales in its waters and those whales are now part of the country’s ecotourism activities.

“It is how we manage those whales that has created new economic activity for Dominicans, new businesses, new jobs … one whale in our water is worth 1 million dollars each year from tourism.”

Martin, an environmentalist and a senior figure in the Caribbean Conservation Association, told the Japanese audience about a visit that the Japanese ambassador to the Caribbean made to him when he was minister of agriculture.

“(He) wanted to know how Japan can be helpful to Dominica. We had spent 7 years developing a plan for economic development of agriculture so I presented that to your ambassador but he looked out of my window and said two words: ‘Fisheries complex’. I said ‘what did you say?’. ‘Fisheries complex’, he replied. Basically what he was saying to me was that he does care what we decided we wanted to do but that Japan was going to give us what it wants – another fisheries complex – which we did not need.”

He said this guise of development aid was a sham because at the end of the day, Japan brought its own engineers and other professionals, it own equipment and all the development money was channeled to pay them and so very little, “if any at all” of the aid money remained in Dominica.

Martin said that Japan and the Caribbean can have a beneficial relationship and there are many other substantive areas of cooperation such as renewable energy and shipping that the two can pursue rather than the using taxpayers funds to buy Caribbean votes.