Whaling Meeting Closes-Future Uncertain For Whales and Commission

Friday, 27 June, 2008
Santiago, Chile
The International Whaling Commission’s (IWC) 60th annual meeting ended today having achieved no new protections for whales and little progress in addressing the dysfunction that plagues the international body responsible for the conservation of whales worldwide.  Conservation organizations including the International Fund for Animal Welfare (www.ifaw.org) expressed concern that the meeting failed to address growing threats to whales including increasing whaling by Japan, Iceland and Norway.
 “The Commission is trying to chart a course for the future while ignoring ongoing whaling by just three member countries,” said Patrick Ramage, IFAW Global Whale Program Director. “Whale conservation measures were put on ice at this meeting.  If Japan, Norway and Iceland are serious about compromise, they should prove it by suspending their ongoing whaling.”

This week’s meeting focused mainly on the future of the commission, with only brief flashes of conflict between pro-whaling and conservation-minded countries. This year a “no votes” strategy spearheaded by the IWC chairman and U.S. commissioner to the IWC, Dr. William Hogarth, was meant to rebuild trust between opposing nations in an effort to modernize the IWC for the future.

The delicate strategy failed Thursday when Denmark insisted on a vote to increase the number of whales Greenland whalers could kill as part of the country’s aboriginal subsistence whaling program. Discussion of the proposal, which was ultimately defeated, sent the 81-nation membership of the commission into heated debate that was reminiscent of past conflicts and seemed to set the commission back

Latin American countries agreed as a group to withdraw their proposal for a South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary with the hope that it would be taken as a sign of good faith that they are willing partners in the shaping of the IWC into an effective agency.

While the IWC is busy sorting out internal bureaucratic wranglings, 1,500 whales will be targets for Japan’s harpoons in the Southern Ocean Sanctuary and North Pacific over the next year, while both Iceland and Norway continue their whaling hunts in defiance of the 1986 commercial whaling moratorium.

Japan has long advocated for lifting the ban on commercial whaling and continues to exploit a legal loophole in international treaties that allows for lethal whale research – though it sells the meat it derives from the hunt. The IWC has criticized Japan’s scientific whaling program for failing to produce legitimate scientific data.

The next IWC annual meeting will be held in Madeira, Portugal in 2009.

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Brian Sharp, Emergency Relief Officer, Stranding Coordinator
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Dr. Maria (Masha) N. Vorontsova, Regional Director, Russia & CIS
Regional Director, Russia & CIS
Matt Collis, Director, International Policy
Director, International Policy
Patrick Ramage, Program Director, Whales
Program Director, Marine Conservation