Japan “offsides” at the IWC | WWF
Japan “offsides” at the IWC

Posted on 20 June 2006

In spite of the global whaling moratorium, more whales than ever are being caught and killed on the open seas each year. More may be killed following the outcomes of this year's International Whaling Commission meeting.
St Kitts and Nevis – Despite cries of victory this week from the pro-whaling camp citing that their narrow majority will pave the way to re-open commercial whaling, and equal fervour from anti-whaling countries stressing the status quo has held, more whales than ever are being caught and killed on the open seas each year, in spite of the global whaling moratorium, WWF says.

“Regardless of the rhetoric and posturing here, very little has been achieved for either whales or people this week,” said Dr Susan Lieberman, Director of WWF’s Global Species Programme.

“Nearly two thousand whales have been killed by Japan, Norway and Iceland since last year’s meeting. Every single minute, a whale or a dolphin is harpooned, caught, or drowned in fishing nets. Where is conservation?”

The main issue of contention was a Japanese proposal towards “normalization” of the International Whaling Commission (IWC). This aims to take the IWC back to its “original purpose” which, according to Japan, is to manage commercial whaling as it did in 1946. Pro-whaling countries obtained a narrow majority — 33 to 32 with one abstention from China — supporting this resolution, the so-called “St Kitts and Nevis Declaration”.

The declaration also attempts to bring into question the scientific rationale for the global ban on whale hunting in 1986 and slams non-governmental organizations. It also purports to give legitimacy to the scientifically invalid claim that whale populations are responsible for the decline in the world’s fisheries.

Many of the countries that opposed the resolution stated for the record that they disassociated themselves from the declaration. Of the 17 EU members of the IWC, only Denmark voted for the proposal.

Japan has now said it will convene a meeting in February, inviting countries that “support sustainable consumptive use of whale stocks". WWF believes that sustainable use of whales can best be achieved with non-lethal use, primarily through whale-based tourism, which provides greater economic benefits for poor coastal communities around the world.

Agreeing that reform of some kind of the IWC is necessary, WWF has circulated a paper calling for modernization of the IWC to bring it into line with modern environmental law and treaties.

“This impasse between whalers and anti whalers with each team bringing on its extras at half-time cannot go on,” said Gordon Shepherd, Head of Policy at WWF International. “Let’s look at how to reform this convention and bring it in to line with 21st century conservation practice.”

A WWF opinion poll showed that in ten countries in the Pacific and the Caribbean, people are against a return to commercial whaling, despite millions of dollars of Japanese development aid and an unrelenting public relations onslaught.

For further information:
Joanna Benn, Communications Manager
WWF Global Species Programme
Tel: +39 348 726 7313
As humpback whales breed in different places at different times, it is critical that whale sanctuaries are not limited to the South Pacific.
© WWF / Jim Darling