Nations divided over lifting ban on whale hunt

A A A

A showdown looms this week over the 25-year ban on commercial whaling: Should it be eased, which might mean fewer whales are killed? Or should it remain — leaving Japan, Norway and Iceland to hunt down as many whales as they want?

The International Whaling Commission begins a five-day meeting today in Morocco's Atlantic Ocean resort of Agadir — arguably its most important gathering since 1986, when a moratorium on commercial whaling halted the factory-style slaughter of tens of thousands of animals every year.

A compromise that would suspend the whaling ban has been drafted by the agency's chairman, but it's an unhappy option for nations that abhor whaling. The deal would legitimize commercial hunting in exchange for a drop in the number of whales actually killed by those claiming exemptions to the ban — Japan, Norway and Iceland.

The proposal, the agency says, would end the wildcat whaling that still kills up to 2,000 whales a year, including species on the verge of extinction. Japan's unrestricted whale hunt, allegedly for "scientific research," currently sends more whale meat to sushi bars than laboratories.

Since the ban took place, about 33,600 whales have been killed, according to the Animal Welfare Institute in Washington.

The 88-nation whaling commission also hopes to dispel what its chairman calls an "atmosphere of confrontation and mistrust" that has frozen the agency's work for decades, and to reaffirm its relevance as a regulatory force.

The IWC "is fundamentally broken and must be fixed," the chief US negotiator, Monica Median, told reporters earlier this year.

IWC Chairman Cristian Maquieira published his proposal in April to bring the three whaling nations back under the agency's control by allowing them to hunt commercially under closely monitored quotas.

Advocates say 5,000 whales will be saved over the 10-year life of the deal. Opponents question that claim, and say the proposal would legitimize hunting for profit and throw a lifeline to a dying industry that has constant confrontations with environmental groups on the world's oceans.

"The points of view differ a lot," Marie-Josee Jenniskens, head of the Netherlands' delegation, told The Associated Press. "I wish I could be more optimistic."

She said Maquieira's original compromise was being modified and a new draft was likely to be unveiled Monday. Maquieira himself is not attending due to illness, and the convention will be chaired by his deputy, Anthony Liverpool of Antigua and Barbuda.

Maquieira says his proposal tried to strike "a delicate balance" that admittedly will satisfy no one.

Under it, Japan would be allowed to hunt in the Antarctic Whale Sanctuary, officially declared a no-go zone in 1994 but where Japanese whaling ships haul most of their catch now anyway. The draft says the quotas would involve a "significant reduction" from today's levels but leaves open the question whether whale meat and other whale products can be traded internationally.

Objections to the draft have been swift and firm.

"The Australian government cannot accept this proposal as it currently stands," Environment Protection Minister Peter Garrett said. Australia has already launched a complaint against Japanese whaling at the International Court of Justice in The Hague, the UN's highest court.

The German parliament urged its government to reject the proposal, saying "we can only guess at how fatal the consequences will be for marine ecosystems."

The United States also has voiced reservations, especially over the number of whales the three countries will be allowed to hunt.

Conservationists say the catch quotas must be based on scientific evaluations of whale populations rather than on recent catches.

"The quotas have more to do with political science than biological science," said Patrick Ramage of the International Fund for Animal Welfare.

Ramage is worried that the US is too anxious for a deal, partly because Washington fears Japan could veto the approved catch by Alaskan Inuit hunters, which falls under a clause allowing Aboriginal subsistence whaling.

"There has been decades of steady progress in conservation. All of that is threatened with reversal by a politically expedient proposal that some governments are trying to rush through," Ramage said.

Several environmental groups said they would favor a deal only if endangered species are excluded from the hunt, whaling is stopped in the Antarctic sanctuary, trade in whale products is outlawed and no country is exempt.

"If we leave Agadir with no decision, that is not a victory, because we are not doing what the whales need," said Susan Lieberman of the Pew Environment Group.

WWF said a compromise was clearly needed to end the exemptions claimed by the three nations and bring whaling back under the commission's control.

"But we will not support a compromise at any cost," said WWF's Wendy Elliott. "The IWC is at a crossroads, and the integrity of the commission is in the balance."

Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Billie Piper as Brona in Penny Dreadful
tvReview: It’s business as usual in Victorian London. Let’s hope that changes as we get further into the new series spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Sarah Lucas, I SCREAM DADDIO, Installation View, British Pavilion 2015
artWhy Sarah Lucas is the perfect choice to represent British art at the Venice Biennale
News
science
Arts and Entertainment
No Offence
tvReview: No Offence has characters who are larger than life and yet somehow completely true to life at the same time spoiler alert
News
Chuck Norris pictured in 1996
people
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Dublin

£13676.46 - £16411.61 per annum + OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment Cons...

Ashdown Group: Marketing or Business Graduate Opportunity - Norwich - £22,000

£18000 - £22000 per annum + training: Ashdown Group: Business and Marketing Gr...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Are you great at building rela...

Ashdown Group: Database Analyst - Birmingham - £22,000 plus benefits

£20000 - £22000 per annum + excellent benefits: Ashdown Group: Application Sup...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power