Fate of World’s Whales Hangs in Balance, International Whaling Commission Meets Today

Friday, June 16, 2006
Frigate Bay, St. Kitts
Representatives from 66 nations are convening today in the Caribbean nation of St. Kitts and Nevis for the 58th meeting of the IWC to debate whether a 1986 global moratorium on whaling should be lifted, allowing whales to be hunted commercially. A global community that fought hard to “Save the Whales” in the 1970s is holding its breath as a Japanese-led pro-whaling voting block attempts to wrangle control of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) for the first time.
Tension will be particularly high, as Japan may have amassed enough pro-whale votes within the IWC to control the simple majority, though narrowly, through what it calls its “vote consolidation” program. This would give Japan the power to reverse many of the IWC’s whale conservation initiatives and to replace them with those that support whaling, putting the world’s whales in the greatest jeopardy they have faced since 1986 when the IWC whaling moratorium was put in place.
 
“It is very likely that Japan may have finally realized their long-held goal to establish a pro-whaling majority within the IWC,” said IFAW Director of Wildlife and Habitat Protection, Dr. Joth Singh. “This would be a tragedy for the whales and for the decades of critical conservation efforts that have gone into protecting them.”
 
Though commercial whaling has not been allowed since the 1986 moratorium went into place, Japan, Norway and Iceland continue to hunt whales. Japan and Iceland do so in the name of “science,” citing an IWC resolution that allows for lethal whale research. This year, Japan has announced it will hunt more than 1,200 whales as part of what it calls its “scientific” whaling program. Japan sells the whale meat commercially, which it says is allowed as part of the IWC’s lethal whale research rules, though the IWC has officially criticized these whaling activities.
 
IFAW is calling on IWC members to take a strong stand against commercial whaling at this year’s IWC meeting. To make your voice heard in support of whales, visit IFAW’s campaign website www.stopwhalingnow.org today.

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