Future of whale conservation body in jeopardy

©IFAW
Monday, June 11, 2012
London

At a time when whales face more threats than ever before, the conservation body set up to protect them is also in troubled waters.

In just a few weeks’ time, the 64th annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) is due to take place in Panama City, Panama (2-6 July, 2012). However, unless anti-whaling member countries ensure they attend the meeting and speak out for whales, there is a real danger that this year’s meeting will be sabotaged by Japan and the rest of the pro-whaling bloc.

Some progress was achieved for whales at last year’s IWC meeting in Jersey with the adoption of a raft of measures aimed at improving the forum’s effectiveness and addressing the problems of corruption that have bedevilled the organisation, perhaps most significantly by banning the cash payment of membership dues.

For years, Japan has encouraged developing countries to join the IWC, with personal inducements and fisheries aid. However, now that it is unable to buy its way to the outcomes it wants, Japan is trying to use procedural tactics to destroy the forum.

Last year’s meeting was sabotaged when Japan led its bloc of countries in a walkout that removed the quorum, preventing the meeting from continuing and stopping any further progress on whale conservation issues – there is a danger Japan could employ the same tactics at this year’s meeting.

Patrick Ramage, Director of IFAW’s Global Whale Programme, said: “The whales and the International Commission that protects them are both in trouble. In the wake of last year’s walkout by Japan and other pro-whaling nations, one has to wonder whether the IWC itself will survive in the 21st Century. A strong majority of nations wants to see progress made at IWC in ensuring whale protection for future generations, but this will only be possible if they come together in Panama and make it happen.”

IFAW urges all conservation-minded countries to turn up and speak out for whales and to encourage other member countries to do the same. The countries from Europe that have missed meetings in the last couple of years are Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, San Marino, Slovakia and Slovenia. In addition, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Peru have missed meetings. If they all attend, Japan could not break the quorum.

This year’s IWC meeting could be a watershed in many ways with every controversial issue to do with whales in the last two decades potentially on the table, from Japanese coastal whaling to proposals for a South Atlantic whale sanctuary.

IFAW opposes whaling because it is cruel and unnecessary; there is simply no humane way to kill a whale.

Ramage added: “Whaling is an economic loser. This cruel and outmoded industry must be abandoned now in favour of responsible whale watching – a humane and economically viable alternative that is better for whales and provides more sustainable livelihoods for people.”

About IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare)
Founded in 1969, IFAW saves animals in crisis around the world. With projects in more than 40 countries, IFAW rescues individual animals, works to prevent cruelty to animals and advocates for the protection of wildlife and habitats. For more information, visit www.ifaw.org. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

Notes to Editors –

This year’s meeting of the IWC will be historic in several ways – it is 30 years since the adoption of the moratorium on commercial whaling and 25 years since Japan’s ‘scientific whaling’ programme began. It is likely to be the last time that delegates meet for a full annual meeting before moving to biennial meetings.

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