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17 Senators Sign Letter to President Urging Stronger Whale Protection as International Meetings Begin

WASHINGTON — Humane Society International and The Humane Society of the United States commend a bipartisan group of 17 United States Senators for joining on a letter to President Barack Obama, asking him to require the U.S. delegation to the International Whaling Commission to vote to uphold the ban on commercial whaling. The letter, led by Senators Carl Levin, D-Mich. and Susan M. Collins, R-Maine, was delivered as meetings start in Agadir, Morocco.

"We share the president's objective of enhancing the protection of the world's whale population, but the proposed compromise being considered would be counterproductive to that goal," Levin said. "It would legitimize commercial whaling, even in the Southern Ocean Sanctuary, which was established in 1994 to protect more than 80 percent of the world's whales. My colleagues and I urge the president to reject this proposal and work toward a new agreement that would guarantee the conservation of whale populations."

"The International Whaling Commission should not overturn the 1986 global moratorium on whaling," said Collins. "The IWC's draft proposal would legitimize commercial whaling and would require the United States and other IWC member nations to subsidize oversight of whaling. I urge the Administration to reject the draft proposal and to support continuing the global moratorium."

The worldwide ban on commercial whaling has been in place for more than two decades and is in danger of being overturned. The IWC is meeting to decide whether to allow a resumption of commercial whaling in exchange for promises by three whaling nations to reduce the numbers of whales they kill each year.

IWC member countries originally adopted the ban in 1982 (implementing it in 1986) to protect whales from extinction after decades of slaughter. This conservation measure was a landmark decision and was achieved largely because of the United States' leadership. 

The letter reads in part: "We understand that your Administration has engaged in negotiations related to the future of the IWC with the goal of improving whale conservation, reducing the annual number of whales killed worldwide, and ending commercial whaling now conducted under the guise of science. We appreciate that effort and support such a goal. However, the negotiations have not achieved that intended result."

Kitty Block, vice president of Humane Society International, said, "I hope the administration hears the pleas of the American people and many members of Congress, and changes course to once again be a leader in upholding  the ban and seeking an end to all commercial whaling." 

For the past few years a small group of IWC parties, including the United States, has been working on a compromise package that is being portrayed as a way to resolve a dysfunction within the IWC. 

The proposal to be presented for a vote at the IWC meeting this week would:

  • legitimize the rogue whaling of three countries that have ignored the ban and the will of the international community;
  • effectively overturn the moratorium;
  • stimulate the demand for whale products;
  • approve commercial whaling in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary;
  • fail to close the loopholes in the whaling convention; and
  • require the United States to pay for regulating commercial whaling.

Those Senators who signed the letter to the president are:

Barbara Boxer, D-California

Scott Brown, R- Massachusetts

Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio

Roland Burris, D-Illinois

Susan Collins, R-Maine

Russ Feingold, D-Wisconsin

Dianne Feinstein, D-California

Kirsten Gillibrand, D-New York

Tom Harkin, D-Iowa

Frank Lautenberg, D-New Jersey

Carl Levin, D-Michigan

Joe Lieberman, I-Connecticut

Patty Murray, D-Washington

Jack Reed, D-Rhode Island

Bernard Sanders, I-Vermont

David Vitter, R-Louisiana

Ron Wyden, D-Oregon


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Humane Society International and its partner organizations together constitute one of the world's largest animal protection organizations — backed by 11 million people. For nearly 20 years, HSI has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education, and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty worldwide — On the Web at hsi.org.

Follow The HSUS on Twitter. See our work for animals on your iPhone by searching "HumaneTV" in the App Store.

The Humane Society of the United States is the nation's largest animal protection organization — backed by 11 million Americans, or one of every 28. 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.

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