Humane Society International celebrates 30th anniversary of international whaling moratorium and calls on Japan, Iceland and Norway to join the rest of the world in abiding by it
Since 1986 moratorium, Japan, Iceland & Norway have killed more than 40,000 whales for profit or bogus science
20th October 2016
Ahead of the start of the 66th meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) today in Slovenia, Humane Society International (HSI) is celebrating the fact that more than one hundred thousand whales* are estimated to have been spared in the thirty years since the international moratorium on commercial whaling came into force in 1986, a decision following an important vote in 1982 at which HSI experts were also present.
However, as the IWC celebrates its 70th anniversary, wilful disregard of the ban by Japan, Iceland and Norway has sentenced some 40,000 whales to death since it took effect. This meeting, HSI is calling on IWC member nations to robustly condemn these archaic, cruel and unnecessary killings.
HSI Vice President Kitty Block said: “The moratorium is one of the major conservation successes of our time, having prevented the slaughter of tens or even hundreds of thousands of whales since it came into force thirty years ago. And yet it is systematically undermined by persistent commercial whaling by Japan, Iceland and Norway. Japan’s unilateral resumption of its so-called ‘scientific’ hunt in the Southern Ocean last year is a slap in the face not just for the International Whaling Commission but also for the rule of law, as the International Court of Justice clearly ruled Japan’s previous Antarctic ‘research’ program to be illegal. Loopholes also continue to be exploited by Iceland and Norway in order to kill whales for profit. The IWC is 70 this year and it – and the world - has largely moved on from killing whales for profit. Most of the IWC’s work is now quite rightly about the protection of whales; it’s long overdue for these three countries to join the rest of the international community in protecting and conserving these majestic animals.”
In Australia, the Federal Court found in 2008 that Japanese whaling company Kyodo Senpaku Kaisha (Kyodo) had killed whales in the Australian Whale Sanctuary and that these activities were in breach of Australia's environmental law, the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999 (EPBC Act). In 2015 HSI took this case back to the Federal Court and won, which saw Japanese whaling company Kyodo fined $1 million. HSI continues to seek legal advice on this case.
HSI’s Senior Program Manager Alexia Wellbelove said: “We hope this year’s Commission meeting will continue to make important strides ahead for whale conservation efforts and show that there is no need to slaughter whales for science. With both the international courts and Australia’s Federal Court condemning Japan’s actions, it is time the international community at IWC strongly criticise Japan for its so-called ‘scientific’ whaling program.”
HSI’s expert delegation will be attending the meeting in Slovenia and are able to provide regular updates and commentary. Top priorities include:
- Urging whale-friendly member nations to press for stronger protection for whales, and firmly opposing strategies to undermine the commercial whaling moratorium, such as continuing calls to establish a new category of commercial whaling known as ‘small type coastal whaling’;
- Urging IWC Commissioners to strongly criticize Japan for its continued ‘scientific’ whaling, in light of the International Court of Justice’s March 2014 judgment that Japan’s previous Antarctic whaling did not qualify as scientific research;
- Encouraging strong support to reach the three-quarter voting majority needed to create a South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary;
- Asking member nations to support a Resolution on Cetaceans and Ecosystem services, which notes the increasing research that shows that far from eating all the fish, as Japan and other countries have claimed, whales actually enhance ecosystem productivity and help regulate carbon dioxide in the atmosphere;
- Encouraging IWC members to establish a new work stream to address the causes of bycatch (the incidental capture of animals in fishing equipment, which kills an estimated 300,000 whales, dolphins and porpoises annually);
- Encouraging IWC members to establish and fund a global network of experts trained to rescue stranded whales, dolphins and porpoises, plus collate data to better inform our understanding of these tragic events;
- Supporting the IWC to progress its Animal Welfare Action Plan, agreed in 2014, that seeks to assess threats from ship strikes, noise pollution, and poorly managed whale watching, amongst others, and provide management advice to tackle these problems.
*Estimate derived from extrapolating annual whale catches between 1980 and 1984, immediately prior to the ban, which averaged 12,092 animals per year globally. Had such catch levels continued, more than 360,000 whales would have been killed over the last 30 years - however that might not have been the case because populations may have crashed, and demand for products was reducing. Nonetheless, it is, in our view, entirely plausible that the moratorium prevented the killing of at least 3,400 whales each year, meaning that more than 100,000 whales could have been spared.