Plan to legalise commercial whaling considered

Tuesday, 23 February, 2010
(London, 23 February 2010) – A draft plan unveiled today proposes to legalise commercial whaling for the first time since a 1986 moratorium made it illegal to hunt whales for commercial purposes.

The plan was drafted by member countries of the International Whaling Commission (IWC), an international body which meets annually to set global policy on whaling and whale conservation.

Despite the moratorium, three of the IWC’s 88 member countries – Japan, Norway, and Iceland – have continued to hunt whales.

In recent years, Japan has aggressively recruited votes at the IWC to lift the ban on commercial whaling. This action has split the IWC between pro-conservation and pro-hunting countries.

Some IWC members believe this near-deadlock is untenable. In response, a subset of countries has been meeting privately – Santiago (October, 2009); Seattle (December, 2009) and Honolulu (January, 2010) – to craft a compromise.

That compromise is out today: 

“This is a proposal for the long-term conservation of whaling, not whales,” said Patrick Ramage, IFAW’s Whale Programme Director. “In return for insignificant, short-term concessions from Japan, Iceland and Norway, the IWC would legalise commercial whaling in the 21st Century.”

The draft proposal will now be considered at an IWC working group meeting in St. Pete Beach, Florida beginning March 2. A version of the proposal will then be considered by the full membership of the IWC at June’s annual meeting in Agadir, Morocco.

Ramage added: “This deal would be a sea change in a quarter century of whale conservation. It puts science on hold, the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary on ice, and no restrictions whatsoever on the international trade in whale meat. And after 10 years, all bets are off - no more moratorium and much more whaling.”   

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