Proposal to legalise whaling discussed this week

Wednesday, 23 June, 2010
(Agadir, Morocco, 21 June 2010) – The worldwide whaling ban may be overturned this week as the most important International Whaling Commission (IWC) meeting in decades begins today in Agadir, Morocco.

Representatives from many of the 88 member governments which comprise the IWC are due to consider a controversial compromise proposal which includes legalising commercial whaling for the first time since the ban came into place in 1986.

The proposal, three years in the making, would:

  • Overturn the global ban on commercial whaling and allow hunting in the Southern Ocean Sanctuary around Antarctica.
  • Approve the killing of whales for commercial purposes by Japan around Antarctica and in the North Pacific.
  • Add new rights for Japan to hunt whales in its coastal waters.
  • Allow continued whaling by Iceland and Norway in violation of long-agreed scientific procedures and the global whaling ban.

The meeting has also been rocked by accusations of corruption which have already appeared in media reports. According to the Sunday Times, the IWC Acting Chair and other member countries had their flights, accommodations, per diem and other meeting expenses paid by representatives of the government of Japan – a clear conflict of interest and one that raises questions concerning objectivity.

Robbie Marsland, UK Director of IFAW, said: “IFAW opposes commercial whaling because it is cruel and unnecessary. We urge all IWC member countries to vote the right way – to preserve the whaling ban and protect whales.”

“Of the countries paying their own way here, the vast majority favour permanent protection for whales,” said Patrick Ramage, IFAW’s Global Whale Programme Director.  

“However, procedural manoeuvres are being used to prevent them from presenting their views in an open session. The Acting Chair has ordered two further days of closed-door meetings to limit time for open debate, with a view to fast-tracking the proposal when the formal session re-opens on Wednesday.”

“Whatever one’s view on the proposal, its adoption under the present circumstances will destroy any remaining credibility of the Whaling Commission,” said Ramage.

The IWC is the global body responsible for protecting our planet's great whales. Currently three member countries – Japan, Norway and Iceland – continue to hunt whales in defiance of the whaling ban. This comes at a time when whales around the world face more threats than ever before. Commercial whaling, habitat destruction, ocean noise pollution, climate change, ship strikes and entanglement in fishing gear kill thousands of whales annually.

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