ST. PETERSBURG, FL, September 5, 2008 – The International Whaling Commission (IWC), which sets international whaling regulations, has scheduled a closed-door meeting in St. Petersburg, Florida, to consider lifting the ban on commercial whale hunting.

The commission, a global body of eighty-member nations, first adopted the whaling ban in 1982 to prevent dwindling whale populations from becoming extinct. Now, just as some studies indicate certain whale species may be showing initial signs of recovery, whaling countries are eager to consider returning to commercial whaling practices.

IWC chairman William T. Hogarth, who also serves as the Dean of the College of Marine Science, University of South Florida, St. Petersburg, Florida, is directing the closed-door meeting of the IWC Small Working Group.

“These closed-door meetings pose a grave risk to the future of the IWC and the whales it was established to protect,” said Patrick R. Ramage, Global Whale Program Director of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW). “Whales face more threats today than at any time in history and Americans from sea to shining sea want to see them protected. The last thing we need is a secret deal to re-open whaling. Dr. Hogarth should either open up the process for scrutiny, or simply cancel the meetings.”

Japan, Norway, and Iceland Continue to Defy the Ban – The Realities

Despite an international ban on whaling that has been in place for more than 25 years, commercial whaling still takes place in Japan, Norway, and Iceland. As a result, more than 30,000 whales have killed for commercial purposes since 1986. Should the St. Petersburg meeting compromise the whaling ban, those numbers will only increase.

Twenty-six IWC Member countries are expected to attend the St. Petersburg meetings, including many that are expected to support Japan’s effort to undo the whaling ban. For the past 15 years, Japan has engaged in a “vote consolidation” strategy using fisheries aid to persuade countries join the IWC and vote in favor of killing whales. Having forged a blocking minority in the forum, Japan is now tightening the pressure on the IWC to reverse the current global ban on whaling.

“The global ban on commercial whaling was one of the most important conservation victories of the last century,” Ramage said. “If Japan, Norway, and Iceland, the last three countries engaged in commercial whaling be successful in their efforts to overturn the whaling ban, forty years of conservation efforts will go right down the drain.”

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