Three countries continue to oppose the international moratorium on commercial whaling, and we see an opportunity to turn the tide.
For decades, we have joined in conversations across leading international policy forums, endeavoring to position whale watching as a more sustainable, humane and economic alternative to whale hunting. We worked with the International Whaling Commission to create whale sanctuaries, to lower hunting quotas, and to prove in court that so-called ‘scientific whaling’ was in fact commercial whaling in disguise.
Yet pro-whaling interests in Iceland alleged whaling would create jobs and benefit the national economy. Norway continued to increase its quotas, and thus whale deaths. Japan seemed to be on a trajectory that couldn’t be reversed.
Commercial whaling has been banned worldwide since 1986. Sadly, more than 1,000 whales continue to be hunted for commercial purposes each year. With fresh thinking and innovative partnerships, we’re shifting the global mindset toward sustainable new solutions and saving these iconic whales.
We did the research, we made connections, and we changed attitudes. In both 2001 and 2009, we produced and released comprehensive global studies on the economic benefits of whale and dolphin watching.
We launched a public awareness campaign in Iceland, visiting over 200 schools, discussing alternatives to commercial whaling with the next generation about sustainable alternatives to commercial whaling. Our Meet Us Don’t Eat Us campaign has garnered nearly 150,000 worldwide signatures and has inspired a complete turnaround of the local restaurant industry.
We facilitated cross-border dialogues with tourism boards, the Japan Whale and Dolphin Watching Council, the ‘IceWhale’ Icelandic Whale Watching Association, and the NorWhale network in Norway. We engaged with politicians at all levels of government, from parliament to city councils.
Attitudes and businesses are now shifting toward a sustainable – and more lucrative – whale watching industry, and IFAW has been leading the way. But to end commercial whaling permanently, the work must continue.
We are gaining momentum, whale watching is on the rise. In Iceland, the number of annual whale watchers has expanded from 30,000 in 1998 to 175,000 in 2012 to more than 300,000 last year. In Japan, whale watching now generates more than $22 million each year.
Japan has ceased whaling in Antarctica and on the high seas, and for the second year in a row, no whaling vessel has departed from Iceland’s harbours.
We believe that comprehensive solutions come from strong partnerships, awareness and inspired citizens. By promoting responsible whale watching, we can help fulfill a demand for eco-tourism in a way that benefits humans and whales alike.
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The problems we face are urgent, complicated, and resistant to change. Real solutions demand creativity, hard work and involvement from people like you.