Leading conservationists sound alarm over whaling

Thursday, June 9, 2005
Yarmouth Port, MA
IFAW (International Fund for Animal Welfare – www.ifaw.org) and other leading conservation groups today called for an end to whaling and expressed concern over new proposals from the Government of Japan to expand its whaling activities. Despite a worldwide ban on hunting whales, Japan has continued to hunt hundreds of whales each year, claiming its whaling is conducted for scientific purposes. A new nationwide poll also released today shows strong majorities of Americans across the political spectrum are concerned about Japanese whaling and want the U.S. government to take action to stop it.
According to widespread media reports and government sources, Japan will shortly announce plans to double its “scientific” whaling in protected waters around Antarctica and to add two new protected species, fin and humpback whales, to its target list. Japan’s proposal has sparked criticism from the United States, Australia, New Zealand and other concerned governments in recent weeks. A joint statement released today by IFAW and five other leading conservation groups (Greenpeace International, Humane Society International, International Wildlife Coalition, Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society and the World Wildlife Fund) also urges Japan to end its scientific whaling program. 

Significant majorities of Americans are opposed to whaling and find Japan’s whaling unacceptable according to a new nationwide poll by Market Strategies, Inc.

Results of the nationwide survey of 1000 eligible voters include:
· 78% of Americans oppose commercial hunting of whales
· 71% are concerned that Japan is killing whales for scientific research
· 79% are concerned about Japanese plans to increase whale hunting (including humpback and fin whales) in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary around Antarctica
· 76% approve of the U.S. applying diplomatic pressure against Japan
· 75% approve of U.S. officials speaking out publicly against Japanese whaling
· 66% approve of applying trade sanctions against Japan
· Concern about whaling by Japan is strong across the U.S. political spectrum.

Japan, Norway and Iceland continue to hunt whales. More than 25,000 whales have been killed since the ban went into effect in 1986.  Japan and Iceland claim their hunts are for scientific purposes, though meat from slaughtered whales is processed and sold in domestic markets. 

“Scientific whaling is more about whaling than science. Anyone can come up with 101 things to do with a dead whale,” said Fred O’Regan, president and CEO of IFAW. “As strong majorities of Americans clearly recognize, there is no need to hunt whales in the 21t century.  The best science in the world today comes from studying, photographing and listening to live whales in the ocean.” 

O’Regan highlighted the dramatic growth in the whale watching industry which offers sustainable economic benefits to coastal communities worldwide. “Responsible whale watching is the future, not irresponsible whaling,” O’Regan said. “Animals and people both do better when whales are seen and not hurt.” Global assessments conducted by IFAW demonstrate that whale watching is now pursued in 90 countries and territories and contributes more than one billion dollars each year in tourism revenues to coastal economies worldwide.

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