Commercial Whaling Proposal

Negotiating An End To Scientific Whaling

The long standing bone of contention between Australia and Japan might shift into a new gear as of this proposal.

The draft deal would lift the ban on commercial whaling, while reducing the total number of whales killed each year by ending so-called “scientific” whaling.

There are indications key nations support the deal and it could succeed.

Conservation groups are angry and want Australia to use its position to fight against the proposal.

The deal has been issued by a “small working group” of the International Whaling Commission (IWC), which includes Australia and Japan.

It is a draft deal which has not yet been approved; it is understood Australia will not support it.

Currently, commercial whaling is banned but countries can hunt whales in the name of science. Up to 1900 whales are killed each year.

The proposal would lift the commercial ban. Japan would legally be able to hunt whales without relying on the “science” justification.

The pay-off is that the proposal says the number of whales hunted would be significantly reduced from current levels.

The new deal would appear to allow for the hunting of minke whales, fin and humpback whales in the southern hemisphere.

It would come into force on November 1 this year.

Last week, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd announced his government would take international legal action against Japan if it did not agree, by November, to end whaling in the Southern Ocean.

The federal government appears to have left open the option of a deal which would see Japan phase out whaling, which could see the practice continue for some years.

Sources say the proposal is gaining support internationally, with the US and New Zealand disposed to support it.

Environment Minister Peter Garrett met conservation groups in Canberra on Tuesday to discuss the issue. Australia is due to make an alternative proposal to the IWC within days.

One dreads to think what Australia is going to offer in exchange.

Here’s a more detailed article.

The draft, released by International Whaling Commission support group chairman Cristian Maquieira, said: “This effort represents a paradigm shift in the way the Commission will carry out its mandate. The commission will establish caps of takes that are within sustainable levels for a 10-year period.”

The IWC proposal said its aim was to reduce the number of whales culled under the scientific loophole which it admits has led to an increase rather than a reduction in the number of whales killed since the moratorium was put into place in 1986.


The draft proposals, drawn up by an IWC working group that included Japan and Iceland describes as “critical” the quota limits for commercial hunting.

“Since the imposition of the commercial whaling moratorium in 1985/86, over 33,000 whales have been killed by whaling under objection, reservation and special permit – whaling over which IWC has no control,” it said.

“These takes have been increasing each year. In 1990, just over 300 whales were taken; in 1995 there were around 750 whales taken; in 2000 they were around 1,000 whales; and over the last five years takes have been between 1,700 and 1,900 whales,” it said.

The proposal will go next month to an IWC working group meeting in Florida and, if approved, will be voted on at the annual meeting in June. If it is passed with at least a 75 percent majority, the proposals will becothe regime for over-seeing whaling and whale conservation.

So in other words, the IWC is going back to its proper mission of brokering numbers.

Basically, you have 2 groups with mutually exclusive ends, fighting it out on the IWC each year. The Anti-Whaling lobby has taken the agenda to the extreme and basically won’t let any commercial whaling resume, so nations interested in whaling have to come up with legitimate excuses to go whaling. South Korea says each year it plans on having more accidents where they hit whales. Iceland is threatening to leave the IWC, as is Norway. Russia is quiet but still goes on campaigns for whaling. And then there’s Japan, the nation that seems to attract the most vitriol because clearly its claims of scientific whaling’ seem the most unlikely – Although I don’t see how it’s any less unscientific than planning to have more accidents, but nobody gets on South Korea’s case about their accidental whaling program.

Hence you have the crazy folks of Sea Shpherd chasing the Japanese scientific whaling fleet and throwing smoke bombs and stink bombs and getting hosed and getting run over by whaling boats and what have you. It’s pretty unomcompromising on the anti-whaling lobby side. They’re saying zero and nothing else, and they’re staked to that as a moral position.

Then the whaling nations ave their claims too – mainly on the basis of cultural practice, but also because the International Whaling Commission has effectively turned itself into the International Anti-Whaling Commission that nothing can get negotiated beyond whether it’s possible to even contemplate commercial whaling.

It’s getting mightily sticky as a diplomatic topic too because now Kevin Rudd is saying he will sue Japan in some international court over the scientific whaling, although on the basis of just what international law remains to be seen. The Japanese are doing ‘scientific’ whaling under the provisions for such things under the IWC agreement so they’re not exactly breaking rules there. Australia’s insistence that the whaling is happening in Australia’s territorial waters is just as dodgy because Australia’s claim over the territorial waters is just a claim.

Meanwhile the popular claims that whaling is bad because it’s cruel is fraught with problems. I doubt Australia’s beef industry would like it if say, India came in hard with claims that cows are sacred and therefore should not be eaten. You can see just how far that argument would fly in Australia, so people really ought to get off the cruelty-to-animals line as the basis of anti-whaling arguments. If you think that’s spurious, then let me tell you the Japanese think the anti-whaling arguments are just as spurious.  Maybe that’s what the Japanese should do: Pay India to complain about the beef industry in Australia. God knows they have a few *ahem* beefs with Australia already.

At this point in time it’s clear that the 4-6 nations that want to undertake commercial whaling:

  • will seek to undertake whaling no matter what
  • don’t care how anti-whalers feel about it
  • are not persuaded by moral/ethical/fluffy-emotional arguments
  • have their own data and stats to support their case for whaling
  • but will abide by proper agreements.

Unless Australia’s really going to war with these countries over whaling, then maybe it should negotiate *something*. So what could that something be? It seems that it’s a plan to let whaling go back to being legit in exchange for strictly controlled numbers. In other words, both parties give up something. The anti-whalers have to give up their demand for zero as the number, and the whalers have to reduce the number towards zero.

People who are not willing to make any compromises won’t like it, but there’s enough political realism to the notion that allows all the nations involved to come to a detente. It’s certainly better than the stupid annual stoush that is the IWC meeting in May each year. Ideals are fine, but if there are people who are diametrically opposed to your ideals, then it’s time to get a little real.

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