Plan to overturn whaling ban unveiled

Thursday, April 22, 2010
Yarmouth Port, Mass.
The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW – www.ifaw.org) announced that the International Whaling Commission (IWC) has released a new plan to legalize commercial whaling.

The proposal, if adopted, would overturn the 1986 ban on commercial whaling by authorizing whaling by Norway, Iceland, and Japan. It would also legalize Japan’s whaling in an internationally recognized whale sanctuary around Antarctica, grant new rights to Japan, Iceland, and Norway to kill whales for commercial purposes, and ignore established IWC scientific procedures for estimating sustainable whaling limits.

The plan, released today by the IWC Secretariat based in Cambridge, United Kingdom, is to be considered and acted on in June at the IWC’s annual meeting in Agadir, Morocco.

“This plan a whaler’s wish list,” said Patrick Ramage, IFAW’s Whale Program Director. “It throws a lifeline to a dying industry when endangered whale populations face more threats than ever before. This would be a breathtaking reversal of decades of U.S. leadership and conservation progress at the IWC.”

The IWC, which is comprised of 88-member governments, is the global body responsible for conservation of our planet's great whales. Three member countries – Japan, Norway, and Iceland – have continued to hunt whales in defiance of the worldwide commercial whaling ban. The proposed plan proposes annual whale-hunting quotas for these countries under the discretion of the IWC.

The current proposal would also:

  • Overturn the global ban on commercial whaling and allow hunting in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary around Antarctica.
  • Approve the killing of whales for commercial purposes by Japan around Antarctica and in the North Pacific.
  • Add new rights for Japan to hunt whales in its coastal waters.
  • Allow continuing whaling by Iceland and Norway in violation of long-agreed scientific procedures and the global whaling ban.

Beginning with President Ronald Reagan, the ban on commercial whaling has been a policy championed by every successive American President. On April 16, 2008 then-candidate Barack Obama promised, “As President, I will ensure the U.S. provides leadership in enforcing wildlife protection agreements, including strengthening the international ban on commercial whaling. Allowing Japan to continue commercial whaling is unacceptable.”

Contrary to that campaign pledge, Obama Administration have been actively engaged in crafting the dangerous new proposal and building support within the IWC for a return to commercial whaling.

Recent press reports, based on interviews with Obama administration officials, portray the United States as leading an effort toward a deal that would “end whaling” by Japan, Norway, and Iceland – the three countries that still hunt whales in defiance of international law.

The proposal released today would do no such thing.  In fact, it would do precisely the opposite.

U.S. government officials, together with fisheries representatives from a dozen other countries, have conducted three years of closed-door meetings and produced a proposed agreement that would not only suspend the ban on commercial whaling but grant Norway, Iceland, and Japan the right to hunt whales legally and open the world’s largest whale sanctuary, in the Antarctic, to whaling.

“The Obama Administration needs to come out strongly against this proposal. Instead of twisting arms to get a deal that conserves whaling, the United States and other countries should be promoting 21st century conservation measures and working to end commercial whaling once and for all,” added Ramage.

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Isabel McCrea, Regional Director, Oceania
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IFAW Japan Representative
IFAW Japan Representative
Patrick Ramage, Program Director, Whales
Program Director, Whales