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Whaling: A Proposal Littered with Problems

The new IWC plan to give the stamp of approval to commercial whaling is a bad idea

The Humane Society of the United States

whale minke 2

Adrian Baddeley/iStockphoto

The current compromise proposal coming up for a vote at this year’s meeting of the International Whaling Commission could spell disaster for whales all over the world. There are numerous problems with the proposal, but the ones that stick out like a sore thumb are these: It would legitimize commercial whaling by suspending the international moratorium and it would allow whaling in the Antarctic Southern Ocean Sanctuary for ten years. These alone constitute a big step backwards from the progress made in 1986, when the moratorium went into effect.

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There are additional flaws littering the lengthy document, but the untrained eye might be fooled by the language used. Here is a summary:

  • The proposal doesn't phase out commercial whaling—it throws a life line and makes commercial whaling wholly legal within the IWC.

  • It will stimulate new markets rather than close out struggling subsidized industries.

  • The proposal cannot legally limit whaling to only the countries that currently hunt whales commercially or for scientific purposes—Japan, Norway, and Iceland. Other IWC member countries will have the right to whale once the ban has been suspended or lifted.

  • It cannot legally prevent governments from ignoring the rules by filing an objection (as Norway has), leaving the IWC and returning with a reservation (as Iceland did), or conducting scientific whaling (as Japan is doing).

  • The proposal states that only domestic trade is allowed, but it allows Norway, Iceland, and Japan to keep their reservations to the CITES Appendix I listing of whales. This means means these countries may still trade whale meat internationally.

  • The proposal does not include adequate compliance or enforcement mechanisms. Governments, not the IWC, will be responsible for punishing violations by their own fleets.

  • The proposal is not based on sound science. The quota numbers used are simply based on politics. And there is no mechanism for lowering the quotas if the science shows that they are too high.

  • The costs of managing whaling would be paid by all the IWC member governments, not just the three whaling nations that will benefit from whaling. Yet there is no similar proposal for helping countries build or maintain whale watching industries.

  • The proposal does not address animal welfare issues.

  • The proposal was developed using a process that prevented civil society from having any input or role in the negotiations.

Humane Society International is working hard with other organizations to keep this harmful proposal from being passed, but we need your help You can find a list of things to do for whales here.

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