At the Start of the IWC in Jersey, Song of the Whale Prepares for Rough Seas
On a breezy summer evening in a central London dock, under the shadow of Tower Bridge, IFAW had the pleasure of hosting an event for UK politicians, media and other guests to talk about the whaling issue and other threats to whales ahead of next week’s 63rd annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in Jersey. We invited MPs to take a tour of our unique whale research vessel, Song of the Whale, which uses non-invasive methods to study whales, such as hydrophones and photo identification. I am always struck by the enthusiastic responses we receive from politicians when they get the chance to go aboard the boat. Perhaps this is partly because, as well as gathering important new information on whales which can help us in our mission to protect them, Song of the Whale gives us a great platform to demonstrate that it is really not necessary to kill or harm whales in order to learn more about them. We were delighted to have a turnout of more than 50 guests at our event at such a critical time for whales.
At next week’s meeting, the International Fund for Animal Welfare is calling for new measures to be introduced to ensure greater openness at the IWC. We believe this is necessary to make sure it runs effectively. The UK Government has also put forward proposals for this year’s meeting aimed at improving the transparency and effectiveness of the IWC. We were very pleased to be able to give the Minister for Natural Environment and Fisheries, Richard Benyon MP, an opportunity to outline the UK Government’s position ahead of the meeting. During his hard-hitting speech, Mr Benyon stressed that the UK Government was committed to ending commercial whaling and reaffirmed its intention to work to modernise the IWC. Last year, a proposed ‘compromise deal’ which could have seen commercial whaling legitimised for the first time since the 1986 international ban was thankfully defeated, in no small part due to the efforts of IFAW supporters. However, sadly, the many threats to whales remain, and right now, Iceland, Norway and Japan are harpooning whales. In addition to commercial whaling, whales are also struggling against more man-made threats today than at any other time in history – such as ship strikes, ocean noise, entanglement in fishing gear and marine debris, pollution and climate change.
As I set sail on a two-day symbolic journey to Jersey aboard Song of the Whale with other members of the IFAW IWC team, there may be rough seas ahead but I hope that all IWC country members will use next week’s meeting to strive for real and lasting change. The whales are relying on us…