Leading article: A welcome breakdown

Share
Related Topics

Under normal circumstances, the breakdown of an international meeting would be a cause for disappointment; but not in the case of the International Whaling Commission. After two days of discussions in Morocco, the gathering has been brought to an end because the delegates of 88 nations were unable to reach agreement. The draft deal under discussion would have lifted the 24-year-old ban on commercial whaling. Iceland, Japan and Norway would have been granted an annual catch quota.

Despite the safeguards that were being proposed to accompany a relaxation of the ban – a DNA register for whale meat to prevent illegal hunting, the scope for tightening hunt quotas based on scientific evidence of whale stocks – this would have been a deeply regressive step. It is true that the present IWC ban is often breached already. Japan, Iceland and Norway kill some 1,500 whales a year, either in outright defiance of the ban, or under the spurious excuse of scientific research. And the IWC has no enforcement powers to punish nations which defy its rulings. But the international stigma around commercial whaling does suppress the overall level of whaling. And it is no idle fear that sanctioning commercial whaling would result in demands from other countries to be given their own quotas. South Korea, for instance, has already signalled that it would be interested.

The conservation gains of the deal – getting Japan to curb its whaling activities in the Southern Ocean and imposing quotas on Iceland and Norway that are smaller than the present kill rates – would be outweighed by the pain. The 1986 moratorium was responsible for reducing the number of whales killed every year by tens of thousands. It allowed species such as the blue, the humpback and the right whale to pull back from brink of extinction.

To relax the ban would be to risk unravelling that historic progress. It would reframe the IWC firmly as a resource management, rather than a conservation organisation.

A year-long "cooling-off" period is likely before the IWC meets again. But the pressure for a relaxation of the whaling ban will most likely continue. Japan, for one, has invested too much in breaking the moratorium (including shamelessly buying the support of small countries with aid) to give up now. So we must hope that when delegates gather for the next IWC meeting, the talks prove equally unsuccessful.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project Assistant

£17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: They are a leading company in the field ...

Recruitment Genius: DBA Developer - SQL Server

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager

£26041 - £34876 per annum: Recruitment Genius: There has never been a more exc...

Recruitment Genius: Travel Customer Service and Experience Manager

£14000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The fastest growing travel comp...

Day In a Page

Read Next
A pack of seagulls squabble over discarded food left on the beach at St Ives on July 28, 2015  

Number of urban seagulls in Britain nearly quadruples: Hide food and avoid chicks to stay in gulls’ good books

Tom Bawden
 

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice
Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks
The haunting of Shirley Jackson: Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?

The haunting of Shirley Jackson

Was the gothic author's life really as bleak as her fiction?
Bill Granger recipes: Heading off on holiday? Try out our chef's seaside-inspired dishes...

Bill Granger's seaside-inspired recipes

These dishes are so easy to make, our chef is almost embarrassed to call them recipes
Ashes 2015: Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

Tourists are limp, leaderless and distinctly UnAustralian

A woefully out-of-form Michael Clarke embodies his team's fragile Ashes campaign, says Michael Calvin
Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
HMS Victory: The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

The mystery of Britain's worst naval disaster is finally solved - 271 years later

Exclusive: David Keys reveals the research that finally explains why HMS Victory went down with the loss of 1,100 lives
Survivors of the Nagasaki atomic bomb attack: Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism

'I saw people so injured you couldn't tell if they were dead or alive'

Nagasaki survivors on why Japan must not abandon its post-war pacifism
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen