Plan to Legalize Whaling Considered During EU Year of Biodiversity

Tuesday, 23 February, 2010
Yarmouth Port, Mass.
A draft plan unveiled today proposes to legalize commercial whaling for the first time since 1986 in this, the EU Year of Biodiversity.

“Whales face mounting threats such as ship strikes and ocean noise, not to mention ‘scientific whaling’ and it is outrageous to even consider a proposal that would see them further endangered,” said IFAW EU Director Lesley O’Donnell. “EU member countries and the people of Europe have committed to a world free from whaling and should not be held to ransom by three countries that have stubbornly pursued this cruel slaughter.”

The plan was drafted by member countries of the International Whaling Commission (IWC), an international body which meets annually to set global policy on whaling and whale conservation.

Despite the moratorium, three of the IWC’s 88 member countries – Japan, Norway, and Iceland – have continued to hunt whales.

In recent years, Japan has aggressively recruited votes at the IWC to lift the ban on commercial whaling. This action has split the IWC between pro-conservation and pro-hunting countries.

Some IWC members believe this near-deadlock is untenable. In response, a subset of countries has been meeting privately – Santiago (October, 2009); Seattle (December, 2009) and Honolulu (January, 2010) – to craft a compromise.

That compromise is out today: Chair’s Report to the Small Working Group on the Future of IWC

“This is a proposal for the long-term conservation of whaling, not whales,” said Patrick Ramage, IFAW’s Whale Program Director. “In return for insignificant, short-term concessions from Japan, Iceland and Norway, the IWC would legalize commercial whaling in the 21st century.”

The draft proposal will now be considered at an IWC working group meeting in St. Pete Beach, Florida beginning March 2nd. A version of the proposal will then be considered by the full membership of the IWC at June’s annual meeting in Agadir, Morocco.

“This deal would be a sea change in a quarter century of whale conservation. It puts science on hold, the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary on ice, and no restrictions whatsoever on the international trade in whale meat. And after ten years, all bets are off -- no more moratorium and much more whaling,” said Ramage.   


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Brian Sharp, Emergency Relief Officer, Stranding Coordinator
Manager, Marine Mammal Rescue and Research
Dr. Maria (Masha) N. Vorontsova, Regional Director, Russia & CIS
Regional Director, Russia & CIS
Patrick Ramage, Program Director, Whales
Program Director, Marine Conservation