IWC Opens Today In Maderia

Governments from more than 80 countries opened the 61st annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in Madeira today (Mon), following a year of closed-door discussions which have failed to secure agreement from Japan, Iceland and Norway to respect the body’s scientific procedures and commercial whaling ban.

Conservation-minded delegates to the week-long meeting said much is at stake for whales and decades of international efforts to protect them.

Patrick Ramage, whale programme director for the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), said: "Our planet's great whales face more threats today than at any time in history. It's time to get rid of commercial whaling, not the whaling ban."

An IWC moratorium on commercial whaling came into effect in 1986. Since that time, the government of Japan has killed some 12,000 whales, abusing a provision in the convention which permits whaling for scientific research purposes.

A major focus of this week's meeting is a proposed deal to sanction unsustainable coastal whaling by Japan in exchange for a reduction in its ongoing "scientific" whaling in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary. Such a deal would violate the moratorium and established scientific procedures, legitimise Japan’s ongoing "scientific" whaling and ignore decades of work by the IWC Scientific Committee.

"Countries that support sound science and whale conservation should reject this deal and instead take action inside and outside the IWC to make the commercial whaling moratorium effective," Ramage added. "The future of the IWC is conservation science, not commercial slaughter."

A new IFAW report to be released during the Madeira meeting documents the continuing dramatic growth and expanding economic contribution of whale watching worldwide.

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