IWC Discusses Whaling Future

Written by on June 22, 2010 in Policy & Ocean Law

Celia-Inés Ammann

Yesterday, the International Whaling Commission (IWC) opened its 62nd Annual Meeting in Agadir, Morocco, and will vote on the future of the whaling moratorium.

Blue Whale With Calf – Credit: Andreas Tille

A proposal by the chairman of the commission has been highly controversial, as lifting the moratorium on commercial whaling, signed on July 23, 1982 and valid as of 1986, is the center focus.

Conservationists are highly concerned. Darren Kindleysides, Director of the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) said,

“The global ban on whaling stands as one of the greatest ever landmarks for conservation. t was too hard-won to be given up softly.  It has saved tens of thousands of whales from the harpoons and laid the foundation for whale populations to begin the slow climb back from the brink of extinction.  The IWC is working to finalize a compromise proposal notionally to heal the deep rift between whaling and anti-whaling countries that has beset the Commission in recent years.  However, the proposal on the table offers little for whale conservation, while conceding much to the whaling nations.”

Blow of the Blue whale – Credit: Fred Benko for NOAA

The IWC was set up under the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling which was signed in Washington DC on December 2nd, 1946.  The purpose of the Convention is to provide for the proper conservation of whale stocks and thus make possible the orderly development of the whaling industry.*

Pacific Humpback whale calf – Credit: Karen Varndell 2008/Marine Photobank

The IWC claims that there are greater threats to whale populations than controlled and regulated whaling and that the proposal in discussion will enable the Commission to:

  • focus on the recovery of depleted whale stocks and take actions on key conservation issues, including bycatch, climate change and other environmental threats, including the establishment of Conservation Plans for the most endangered populations;
  • create a South Atlantic Sanctuary;
  • recognize the non-lethal value and uses of whales, such as whale watching, as a management option for coastal states and address related scientific, conservation and management issues of such uses;
  • set a decisive direction to the future work of the IWC including measures to reform the governance of the Commission.

The IWC believes that the proposal has the potential to produce much greater overall benefits to whale conservation, especially for those critically endangered populations such as North Atlantic right whales and western North Pacific gray whales.

The IWC will be meeting until Friday June 25th, 2010, when they will reach a decision that will affect the future of whale protection.  Unfortunately, it has been closed to NGO’s and media: only Government delegates are allowed, who will now be negotiating lifting the ban on commercial whaling behind closed doors.

Sperm whale at the Nuuk fjord system – Credit: Helle Jørgensbye/Marine Photobank

Nicolas Entrup, spokesperson of the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS) said,

“How can we hope that the IWC can actually represent the people of the world to do the right thing for whales when we see yet another sign of how the pro-whalers and the USA manipulate the IWC system to take their dirty dealings behind closed doors.  When all that the public get to see is reports of scandal and corruption, why should any of us trust anything these countries are doing out of the light of media and NGO scrutiny.  Excluding civil society from the negotiations when the fate of thousands of whales is hanging in the balance is certainly not the way forward for the IWC.”

The WDCS, AWI and others announced an animated online-tool to provide all the facts and figures the public needs to know about whaling and enormous success of the international ban on commercial whaling.

Humpback whales.

Humpback whales. Photo credit: NOAA.

Some species of large whales are listed as endangered by multinational organizations such as CITES along with governments and advocacy groups primarily due to whaling’s impacts.  More than 2 million were taken in the early 20th century, and by the middle of the century, many populations were severely depleted.**

* from IWC website

** from Wikipedia

Copyright ©  2010 by Marine Science Today, a publication of OceanLines LLC.  All rights reserved.

About the Author

About the Author: Celia is Director of Business Operations for OceanLines LLC and is a frequent contributor to both OceanLines and Marine Science Today. She is a certified diver and her favorite topic is marine biology, especially stories about whales. .

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