Joint NGO statement on scientific whaling



Posted on 09 June 2005  | 
Sperm whale (Physeter catodon) blowing water out its blowhole off the coast of Kaikoura, New Ze
© WWF / Canon - Stephen DAWSONEnlarge
In 1982, the member nations of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) took a necessary leap forward for whale conservation by voting to establish a moratorium on the commercial killing of whales. Since the moratorium took effect in 1986, more than 24,000 whales have been killed in known whaling operations, of which more than 7000 have been killed in the name of science - whales that are then butchered and sold in the Japanese marketplace.

Taking advantage of a loophole in the 1946 International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling that allows whales to be killed for research purposes, the Government of Japan switched its Antarctic commercial whaling operations to scientific whaling shortly after the moratorium took effect. It added another scientific whaling operation in the North Pacific Ocean in 1994.

Japan chooses to ignore the fact that since the original treaty on whaling was written, science has moved into the 21st Century. The vast majority of information once gathered from dead whales can now be obtained using modern, non-lethal scientific methods, not only making scientific whaling obsolete but also resulting in a better understanding of whales and their place within the marine ecosystem. The majority of IWC members have recognized this and repeatedly urged Japan to cease its scientific whaling operations.

Other IWC member nations, as well as many of the world's leading whale scientists, recognize the time has come to update this anachronistic approach to research and international discussions are underway to revise or even eliminate it. At the same time, Japan, while claiming to participate in negotiations on better international controls for future commercial whaling, is deliberately undermining those efforts by continuing to expand its scientific whaling operations.

At Japan's request, IWC member nations are required to keep the details of Japan's most recent scientific whaling proposal secret until the first day of the meeting on June 20. However, press reports and other sources indicate that in spite of the current talks regarding the possible overhaul of the scientific whaling provision, Japan will actually more than double the number of whales it kills for "research" and add two new species to the program - and all this in an IWC-designated whale sanctuary in the waters surrounding Antarctica.

This constant expansion of an already outdated and questionable research program cannot continue. Our organizations call on the Government of Japan to stop scientific whaling and call on the other members of the International Whaling Commission to make this issue one of their top priorities. The credibility of the IWC and the future of whale populations are both at stake.

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