US plan to legitimise Japanese whaling revealed

Tuesday, 3 February, 2009
(London – 3 February 2009) – Documents released by the International Whaling Commission (IWC) confirm the United States' leadership in negotiations to undo the global moratorium on commercial whaling and extend unprecedented authorisation to the government of Japan to kill whales off its coastline and in international waters.
Patrick Ramage, Whale Programme Director with the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), said: “The plan released today is a bad deal for whales and international efforts to protect them.

“It would lift the commercial whaling moratorium, give new rights to the government of Japan to kill protected whales, and permit illegal, high seas whaling to continue. Rather than compromising hard-won conservation measures and finding ways for whaling to expand, the IWC and its member governments should be negotiating the terms under which Japan, Norway and Iceland will end their commercial whaling activities.”

Long-time Bush Administration appointee Dr William Hogarth currently serves as US Commissioner and Chairman of the 84-nation International Whaling Commission. In early 2008, Dr Hogarth and the Japanese Vice-Chair initiated a series of closed-door meetings designed to forge a compromise with Japan, one of only three IWC member nations still whaling.

A “small working group” of IWC member countries met behind closed doors in St. Pete Beach, Florida in September and again in Cambridge, England in early December 2008. Dr Hogarth recently reconvened a drafting group of countries in Hawaii to fine-tune the compromise deal now released by the IWC.

Text drafted by US, Japanese and other commissioners engaged in the IWC “Small Working Group” process contemplates legitimising Japan's ongoing scientific whaling in international waters - including an internationally recognised whale sanctuary - as well as extending long-sought authorisation to Japan to kill protected whales in its coastal waters.

“This is not the first issue on the new Obama administration's agenda, but it is perhaps one of the most fundamental and fastest to fix,” Ramage said. “The time has come to end the drift in US policy on whaling and renew America’s conservation leadership.”

Since the global ban on commercial whaling in 1986, Japan has claimed its whaling operations are conducted for scientific research purposes. Japan has killed more than 15,000 whales since the whaling ban and has threatened to begin killing humpback whales if the IWC does not bow to its wishes and approve commercial whaling.

IFAW calls on the US, UK and all pro-conservation countries to do all they can to strengthen the worldwide ban on commercial whaling and protect whales. IFAW opposes commercial or so-called “scientific” whaling because it is cruel and unnecessary.


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Brian Sharp, Emergency Relief Officer, Stranding Coordinator
Manager, Marine Mammal Rescue and Research
Dr. Maria (Masha) N. Vorontsova, Regional Director, Russia & CIS
Regional Director, Russia & CIS
Patrick Ramage, Program Director, Whales
Program Director, Marine Conservation