February 2, 2009
Whales Lose in Secret Bargain Forged by US Commissioner
WASHINGTON — Documents made public today from closed-door meetings corroborate the disturbing nature of a secret deal the United States is attempting to broker with Japan to legitimize and expand commercial whaling. "This 'back of a napkin' deal is a concession to Japan, and marks an abrupt shift in American policy. It's a devastating blow to whale protection and conservation around the globe, and a failure in U.S. leadership at the International Whaling Commission," said Kitty Block, vice president of Humane Society International.
Last week, anticipating the secret bargain, a coalition of groups, including Humane Society International, the global arm of The Humane Society of the United States, asked President Barack Obama to renew and strengthen U.S. policy. (To read the letter to Obama, click here.)
William Hogarth, the United States Commissioner to the International Whaling Commission and the IWC's current chair, led the small group of member countries that devised the proposal last month at a meeting in England. In an attempt to appease Japan — the most vocal of the three nations that still conduct large-scale whaling — the group worked behind-the-scenes to draft packages for consideration by the full commission which would allow Japan and possibly other countries to expand commercial whale hunts to coastal waters.
The Hogarth package would undermine the IWC's moratorium on commercial whaling, implemented in 1986, and provide an official stamp of approval for Japan's self-allotted quotas. Japan has defied the ban for two decades and continued its large-scale whaling operations, killing more than 15,000 great whales under the guise of science.
Hogarth's plan proposes to put all decisions regarding conservation and protection issues on hold for five years, but would result in an immediate partial lifting of the moratorium on commercial whaling once the deal has the IWC's consent.
HSI believes that all discussions regarding vital issues, such as stopping the abuses of so-called scientific whaling, whaling under objection/reservation, protection of small whales and welfare standards, will be discussed over a five-year period, but Japan and others will be allowed to go commercial whaling immediately.
The only concession that Japan makes under the deal is to promise to reduce the number of whales it kills in the IWC-designated Southern Ocean Sanctuary. There will be no mandatory sanctions should the promise be broken.
The Hogarth plan also opens the door for other countries to initiate hunts in their coastal waters and therefore is likely to increase the overall number of whales killed in the long term.
Humane Society International is the international arm of The Humane Society of the United States, one of the largest animal protection organizations in the world, backed by 11 million people. For more than a half-century, The HSUS has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education, and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty — On the web at humanesociety.org.