Attempt to revive whale meat trade raises legal questions
While the exact circumstances and status of the shipments remains unclear, the export of fin and minke whale meat to Japan appears to have taken place without the knowledge or authorisation of relevant Icelandic, Norwegian and Japanese authorities according to the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW).
Robbie Marsland, Director of IFAW UK, said: “We are still working to establish the facts in this particular case, but attempts by anyone to circumvent the relevant authorities and regulations to resuscitate the international trade in whale meat has very grave implications for whales. We hope and expect that the governments of Japan, Iceland and Norway would take immediate action to shut down any illicit activity.”
This week’s report of the whale meat shipments comes as the 80 member nations of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) prepare to meet later this month in Santiago, Chile. As the global body responsible for the management and conservation of whales, the IWC has been attempting to resolve controversial issues and identify a consensus-based approach for deliberations during the upcoming meeting. This week’s developments threaten that objective.
Patrick Ramage, IFAW Global Whale Programme Director, said: “Countries that are serious about whale conservation will not tolerate a renewed whale meat trade. Responsible governments must act now. The whales and the international regimes set up to protect them are both in danger.”
In 2006, Iceland failed to find an international market for meat from seven fin whales hunted as part of a commercial quota and the meat was put into frozen storage. In contrast, Iceland’s successful whale watching industry is one of the country’s biggest tourist draws, with 100,000 customers a year generating more than £10 million in annual revenue for coastal communities.
IFAW opposes commercial or so-called “scientific” whaling because it is cruel, unnecessary and unsustainable. It supports responsible whale watching as a humane and financially viable alternative to the cruelty of whaling.