World to legalize whaling this week?
The most important International Whaling Commission (IWC) meeting in decades begins today in Agadir, Morocco as the 88-member governments which comprise the IWC consider a controversial proposal to legalize whaling.
The proposal, three years in the making, would:
- Overturn the global ban on commercial whaling and allow hunting in the Southern Ocean Sanctuary around Antarctica.
- Approve the killing of whales for commercial purposes by Japan around Antarctica and in the North Pacific.
- Add new rights for Japan to hunt whales in its coastal waters.
- Allow continuing whaling by Iceland and Norway in violation of long-agreed scientific procedures and the global whaling ban.
The meeting has also been rocked by accusations of corruption which appeared in yesterday’s issue of the British newspaper Sunday Times. According to the report, the IWC Acting Chair and other member countries had their flights, accommodations, per diem, and other meeting expenses paid by representatives of the Government of Japan – a clear conflict of interest and one that raises questions concerning objectivity.
“Of the countries paying their own way here, the vast majority favor permanent protection for whales,” said Patrick Ramage, IFAW’s Global Whale Program Director. “However, procedural maneuvers are being used to prevent them from presenting their views in an open session. The Acting Chair has ordered two further days of closed-door meetings to limit time for open debate, with a view to fast-tracking the proposal when the formal session re-opens on Wednesday.”
“Whatever one’s view on the proposal, its adoption under the present circumstances will destroy any remaining credibility of the Whaling Commission,” said Ramage
The IWC is the global body responsible for protecting our planet's great whales. Currently, three member countries – Japan, Norway, and Iceland – continue to hunt whales in defiance of the whaling ban. This comes at a time when whales around the world face more threats today than ever. Commercial whaling, habitat destruction, ocean noise pollution, climate change, ship strikes, and entanglement in fishing gear kill thousands of whales annually.