International whale talks begin in Alaska
The 59th annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) gets underway in Anchorage, Alaska, this week, with the ongoing debate on the moratorium against commercial whaling, the provision of Aboriginal Subsistence Whaling (ASW) quotas, climate change and whale watching as a viable alternative to hunting, high on the agenda for discussion this year.
While anticipation is high that whaling countries, led by Japan, will once again try to overturn the moratorium which ended commercial whale hunting in 1986, it would appear that anti-whaling nations will regain the simple majority which the pro-whalers won in a narrow vote of 33 to 32 last year, and votes to overturn the moratorium are expected to fall well short of the required ¾ majority.
“Recent weeks have seen the accession of several conservation minded countries to the Convention including Greece, Slovenia, Cyprus and Croatia, while it appears Japan has only managed the highly questionable recruitment of land-locked Laos,” said Rebecca Keeble, Humane Society International’s (HSI) Program Manager. “While it looks as though the moratorium will be safe for another year, unfortunately the world’s whales are still not safe from the annual hunting that continues.”
Since the moratorium came into effect in 1986 over 24,000 whales have been killed and their meat sold commercially. In the last 10 years the number of whales killed under scientific permit has increased, from 388 to 639, while Iceland and Norway’s commercial hunts have also increased over the same period. The second phase of Japan’s controversial ‘scientific’ whaling program (JARPAII), which will start in the Southern Ocean later this year, will include the killing of 50 iconic humpback whales annually.
“Now more than ever the conservation countries must move towards sealing the loopholes in the Convention that allow commercial whaling to continue, whether done under a reservation to the moratorium or thinly disguised as scientific research,” Ms Keeble said.
Australia’s Minister for Environment and Water Resources, Malcolm Turnbull, will attend the meeting and HSI is hoping that he will maintain and further the strong position developed by his predecessor.
In its Opening Statement to the IWC, HSI will stress the continuing pressures on the world’s whale populations which are all exacerbated by global climate change. We will also urge the IWC to strongly support whale watching as an industry that can conserve whales, bring economic prosperity and develop conscientious stewardship of the natural environment.
HSI is represented at the meeting by a team experienced in international law, marine mammal science and international treaty negotiations. HSI’s opening statement is available at www.hsi.org.au.