IFAW's Patrick Ramage Tells US Congress, No Whaling, No Comprimise!
Patrick Ramage, Director of IFAW's Whale Program, testified before the US House of Representatives Committee on Natural Resources, Subcommittee on Fisheries, Wildlife and Oceans at a hearing on oversight in advance of the IWC's 60th meeting which begins June 23rd. Check out the following article or you can also read his testimony if you click the following link. Download pr_testimony_final.pdf
WASHINGTON (AFP) — The United States has called for a review of international law to regulate the killing of whales for scientific research in an apparent bid to plug a loophole exploited by Japan, which is accused of slaughtering the creatures.
The change, which could include a protocol on scientific whaling, has however drawn criticism from conservation groups which say it would legitimize a fundamentally illegal activity.
The International Whaling Commission (IWC), which is in charge of conservation of the mammals, has imposed the moratorium on commercial whaling since 1986 but environmentalists argue that Japan has been exploiting a legal loophole allowing whaling for scientific research.
Japan kills about 1,000 whales a year under its scientific program and then sells the meat.
"In order to prohibit scientific whaling through legal means, a change to the ICRW (the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling) would be necessary," said William Hogarth, the US Commissioner to the IWC, which is scheduled to hold annual talks in Santiago, Chile from June 23-27.
Alternatively, Hogarth said "relevant countries would need to enter into a separate binding international side agreement with regard to scientific whaling."
The ICRW was signed in 1946 as a direct result of decades of over-harvesting of the great whale species of the world. Its primary purpose is the conservation and management of the gentle creatures.
Hogarth did not elaborate on the US proposal in his speech at a congressional hearing ahead of the talks of the 79-member IWC, which is split between pro- and anti-commercial whaling countries.
But Patrick Ramage, the global whale program director of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), said concerns had reportedly been expressed by other anti-whaling nations at the IWC that the United States might settle for a sort of code of conduct for scientific whale hunting.
"In our judgment, we would say that is putting lipstick on a pig," he told AFP. "That is trying to brand legitimacy to a fundamentally illegal and inappropriate activity and should be immediately rejected by any country serious about conserving whales in the 21st century."
"We have heard discussion at the previous IWC meeting of US support for a protocol on scientific whaling and that in our judgment will be bowing to unreasonable demands from countries still killing whales," said Ramage, who also testified at the one-day hearing.
A provision in the ICRW allows member countries unilaterally to grant special permits to "kill, take, and treat" whales for the purpose of scientific research.
Although Iceland, Japan and Norway have used this provision at different times since the commercial whaling moratorium took effect in 1986, Japan is currently the only member country conducting lethal scientific research.
The United States, Australia, New Zealand and Britain, among leaders of the conservation lobby, question the necessity of the lethal research and object to the commercial sale of the meat derived from such activity.
There is also reportedly an effort to persuade Japan to either withdraw from or reduce its scientific whaling in the North and South Pacific in return for some sort of compromise.
Possible compromises include getting Japan to agree to hunt only in its own coastal waters, an extension of whale sanctuaries or a management regime that confines whaling to some places when deemed scientifically sustainable.
"From our perspective, a compromise or negotiated solution is exactly the wrong direction to move in at this stage," Ramage said.
"Japan, Norway and Iceland -- the only three countries that want to continue whaling -- should be encouraged and gently led to embrace the emerging reality of the 21st century, which is we can make more money watching these whales than from killing them," he said.