Subject: IWC meeting: International Whaling Commissi (fwd)

Mike Williamson (
Fri, 17 Oct 1997 13:38:43 -0400 (EDT)

---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Tue, 14 Oct 97 12:38:00 GMT 
Subject: International Whaling Commissi

International Whaling Commission Expected to

   WASHINGTON, Oct. 13 /U.S. Newswire/ -- The International Whaling
Commission (IWC), the organization established under the International
Convention for the Regulation of Whaling to manage the sustainable use
of the world's whale resources, is again expected to block efforts that
would allow safe levels of catches from abundant whale stocks when it
holds its annual meeting in Monaco, Oct. 20-24.  Although strongly
criticized at the recent meeting of the Convention on International
Trade in Endangered Species for putting ideology above resource
management, the IWC continues to be dominated by the anti-whaling
movement generated by powerful animal rights groups.
   The anti-whaling movement started in the mid-1960s, fueled by the
over-hunting of great blue whales in Antarctic waters.  Animal rights
campaigners and other environmental fundraising groups jumped on the
issue with anti-whaling campaigns that raised hundreds of millions of
dollars for their cause.  Their message, employed to this day, was that
all of the world's whales -- gentle, social and intelligent creatures
superior to other animals -- were on the verge of extinction from
   In reality, of the 38 species of whales in the waters of the world
only  two -- the blue and the northern right whale -- were classified
as  endangered by the World Conservation Union.  No species has ever
been driven to extinction by whaling.  And the IWC had banned the
catch of right, gray and bowhead whales in 1931, blue and humpback
whales in 1963 and commercial catches of sperm and fin whales have
been banned since the 1970s.  Until the commercial whaling moratorium
was imposed in 1987, no commercial catches were allowed for any stock
or species at 54 percent or less than its original population size.
   Despite the IWC's effective actions to protect over-hunted stocks,
the anti-whaling movement recruited 19 countries into the IWC to vote
for a moratorium on all commercial whaling in 1982.  They claimed a
pause in commercial whaling was needed to carry out a comprehensive
assessment of the major commercial stocks and to develop a better
procedure to determine how many whales of each species and stock could
be safely harvested each year without causing depletion. Both the
comprehensive assessment and the revised procedure were to be put in
place by 1990. But, although both tasks were completed by the IWC's
Scientific Committee, the dominant anti-whaling faction in the
Commission has continued to block the resumption of commercial whaling.
   Now, as the IWC prepares for its 49th annual meeting, these are
some of the issues it has to address:
   -- Commercial whaling --  A compromise proposal to permit commercial
whaling within the Exclusive Economic Zones of whaling nations is being
floated to show that the IWC is capable of some movement toward the
management of the whale resources.  The proposal is not likely to go
anywhere because other elements in it violate the provisions and
principles of the ICRW and other international agreements.  For
example, the proposal would ban all pelagic whaling regardless of the
abundance of pelagic stocks, prohibit international trade in whale
products, and phase out research requiring the taking of whales to
obtain biological information. The compromise proposal is mostly seen
as a ploy because the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea
already gives coastal nations the right to harvest whales in their own
waters without permission from the IWC, and in fact Norway is already
legally doing so.  Also, a ban on pelagic whaling would mean abandoning
the principle of sustainable use as well as violating provisions in the
ICRW.  Restrictions on research would violate Article VIII of the ICRW
and make it impossible to determine whale population trends.  As for
trade, it exceeds the authority of the IWC and conflicts with both the
World Trade agreement and the authority of the Convention on
International Trade in Endangered Species.
   --  Small Cetaceans -- The anti-whaling faction in the IWC is,
little by little, trying to extend its grasp to small cetaceans such
as dolphins and porpoises.  Unlike most whale species, which are highly
migratory, most small cetaceans do not range very far and are more
properly managed on a local or regional basis.  The proposed extension
of the IWC's authority is opposed by most Latin American and Caribbean
   -- Revised Management Scheme (RMS) -- The RMS is the management
system which will determine a safe level of catch from abundant stocks
and ensure proper compliance with the rules through stock assessment,
international inspection and enforcement procedures. Although it was
supposed to be in place by 1990, "at the latest," its completion and
adoption has been delayed year after year by unceasing demands for more
provisions by the anti-whaling faction of the IWC. No progress is
expected this year, either.
   -- Whale Watching -- Another attempt by the anti-whaling factions to
extend the IWC's authority and divert attention from the IWC's failure
to manage whaling.  The ICRW specifically states that the IWC's
authority extends only to "waters in which whaling is prosecuted."
Whale watching provisions would more properly come under the Convention
on Biological Diversity.
   -- Aboriginal Whaling -- Aborigines are exempt from the commercial
whaling moratorium and are allowed to take whales for their
traditional, cultural, social and nutritional needs.  The U.S., which
is allowed an annual quota of 52 threatened bowhead whales for its
Alaskan Inuits, may ask for five gray whales for its Washington State
Makah tribe.  The Russian Federation, which takes 140 gray whales for
its Inuits, is reported to want the addition of five whales from the
Pacific bowhead sles annuall
not asking for any more.
   -- Community-based Whaling --  Japan has asked the IWC to allow four
small communities to take 50 non-endangered minke whales from its
coastal waters in order to relieve the social, cultural and economic
distress which has eroded community and family life there since
imposition of the commercial whaling moratorium.  The four small
coastal communities were highly dependent upon whaling and have neither
an agricultural nor industrial base to fall back upon.  In 1993, the
IWC passed a resolution recognizing the extreme distress of the
families in the four communities and resolved to work expeditiously to
relieve it.  But so far, the IWC has failed to provide any relief.
   -- Legality of the Southern Ocean Sanctuary -- In 1994, the IWC
declared that a 13 million square mile area of the SouthernOcean
around Antarctica would be a wlly protected from whaling by the
IWC's rules.  The legal authorities have shown that the sanctuary
provision exceeds the authority of the IWC and violates provisions of
the ICRW.
   -- Humane Killing -- New Zealand reportedly wants to try again to
introduce a ban on the electric lance as a secondary killing device.
The lance is used to shorten the time to death of whales that survive
strikes by explosive harpoons.  Last year the measure failed to pass.