Is this the beginning of the end of the worldwide whaling moratorium?

In 1986, the International Whaling Commission (IWC) adopted a worldwide whaling moratorium. Almost immediately, Japan began hunting whales to support its brand new whale “research” program. Now, Japan is pushing to resume historic whaling activities in coastal areas and the IWC seems ready to say yes. Is this the beginning of the end for the worldwide whaling moratorium? If so, this is nothing but bad news for whale conservation efforts around the world.

The IWC just concluded a three-day meeting in Rome with the announcement that the Small Working Group of member countries will continue developing a proposal for the resumption of commercial whaling. This package could include an allowance for Japan to renew coastal whaling operations. The IWC appears to believe that Japan will scale back its “scientific” whaling operations if coastal whaling is an option. Really?

What seems more likely (to us) is a rush from other nations who also want permission to resume historic whaling operations. Already, South Korea is making “me too” noises—if Japan gets to hunt minke whales along the coast, says South Korea, then so should they. Perhaps worse, if commercial whaling is again allowed in Japan, does this legitimize the whaling operations in Norway and Iceland? 

The goal, according to the IWC, is to reach a compromise solution by their June annual meeting. But, in order to do this, the working group is ignoring its own scientific procedure developed to determine sustainable harvest limits. Instead, the group is developing arbitrary catch limits that have little or no bearing on long-term sustainability.

Is compromise really more important than whales? IWC seems to think so. We disagree.

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