J. Matt Stabler (
Tue, 28 Oct 1997 18:03:03 -0800

October 27, 1997

The most controversial issue dealt with in this year's International Whaling Commission (IWC) was the request 
by the U.S. for a quota of four gray whales for Washington State's Makah Indian Tribe. The Tribe has a 
1,500-year whaling tradition and whaling right guarantees under an 1855 treaty with the U.S. The Makah request 
was finally approved when presented in a joint proposal with the Russian Federation's request for a 
continuation of their existing quota on the same stock of gray whales for its Chukotkan aboriginal/native 
whalers. In a related joint U.S. / Russian proposal, five bowhead whales were also allocated to the Chukotkans 
in addition to the quota established for this species which is harvested by Alaskan Inupiat.

 "We at the WCW are very pleased with the outcome for the Makah Tribe!! However, the denial of a relief quota 
to peoples elsewhere with as much demonstrated history and need indicates the failure of the IWC to adequately 
address the needs of small communities that rely on marine products for survival" said Chief Mexsis, Chairman 
of the World Council of Whalers. "The Makah have an obvious and clear case for resuming their traditional, 
culturally based harvesting practises, and they have now been given the approval necessary to do so through 
collaborative efforts with the U.S. and Russian Federation. However, at the same meeting, for the tenth year in 
a row, four small coastal Japanese villages which have suffered since the moratorium were denied a modest quota 
from a large, non-endangered whale stock."

Prince Rainier of Monaco opened last week's IWC meeting with a warning that fighting amongst member states is 
about to tear the organization apart. The Commission's own Chairman-elect  openly admitted that IWC is failing 
in its responsibility as an international whaling treaty. The WCW today agreed with both these assessments: 
"There has to be something very wrong with the IWC when whaling nations are the ones that are obliged to leave 
or refuse to join, and where the majority of IWC members are unwilling to honour their legal obligations as 
signatories to the whaling treaty and the globally agreed principle of sustainable use" stated Chief Mexsis. 
This IWC meeting saw some discussion of an Irish proposal to turn the worlds' high seas into a global whale 
sanctuary, while allowing limited forms of whaling to occur within states' coastal areas. The  proposal 
contained obvious flaws, including calling for an end to whale research on the high seas at a time when many 
are suggesting that environmental changes far outweigh hunting as a threat to whales' future survival. 
Anti-whaling counties expressed concerns that the proposal was not restrictive enough, while whaling countries 
expressed concerns that it was excessively restrictive. Therefore, no signifigant progress was made in 
discussing this proposal. The Irish commissioner, who was elected the new IWC chairman, will continue with 
consultations on the proposal, which will then be discussed at the IWC's meeting in Oman next May.

The continuing impasse, and open defiance of the governing charter (ICRW) deem the future of the IWC precarious 
indeed. "What is the point of a management organization that doesn't manage?" asked Kaare Bryn, head of the 
Norwegian delegation. "Perhaps, and sadly so, recognition of cultural differences, and the growing world 
opinion in favour of sustainable utilization of natural resources as expressed in Agenda 21 and the Convention 
on Biological Diversity will come too late to save the IWC from itself." said a concerned Chief Mexsis. "The 
World Council of Whalers truly hopes that those few extreme member nations who remain with the avowed purpose 
of preventing  the IWC from discharging its lawful objectives, will seriously consider leaving the organization 
in order to save the Commission from self-destruction."
J. Matt Stabler
Secretariat Director
PO Box 1383 
Port Alberni, BC V9Y 7M2
Voice: (250) 724 2525  Fax: (250) 723 0463