Subject: IWC: Anti-whaling group rethinks ba (fwd)

Mike Williamson (
Thu, 30 Oct 1997 09:12:44 -0500 (EST)


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Date: Tue, 28 Oct 97 13:01:00 GMT 
Subject: Anti-whaling group rethinks ba

Anti-whaling group rethinks ban, seeks compromise

    By Christine Tierney
     MONACO, Oct 24 (Reuters) - The International Whaling
Commission, in a shift which would have been unthinkable a few
years ago, has begun to reconsider its 1982 decision to halt
commercial whaling.
     The 39-member organisation gave a green light at its annual
meeting this week to new chairman Michael Canny, Ireland's
whaling commissioner, to draft a plan to build a consensus
between its whaling and larger anti-whaling camps.
     Canny proposed lifting the moratorium on commercial whaling.
He would limit the hunt to coastal areas and strictly for local
consumption, while banning hard-to-monitor whaling on the high
seas and stopping the killing of whales for research.
     "To reach consensus in the IWC, there will have to be some
whaling. Some whaling's already going on," Canny said.
     Almost none of the environmental lobbying groups and none of
the leading IWC nations found his plan acceptable in its
     The Japanese say the ban on high seas whaling, like most IWC
proposals, is conceived without any consideration as to whether
some whale species are plentiful enough to be culled.
     The Japanese and Norwegians hunt minke whales, which are
relatively small, measuring less than 10 metres (30 feet), and
plentiful, numbering close to one million world-wide.
     The two countries do not dispute the need to protect the
large endangered species, such as the giant blue whale. "Our
position is that wildlife should be utilised on a sustainable
basis," said Japanese IWC delegate Masayuki Komatsu.
     The Japanese hunt minke whales for scientific research, with
the meat ending up on Japanese menus, and Norwegians hunt minke
in the North Atlantic. Norway is not bound by the 1992 ban
because it registered a legal objection.
     Whale kills by the two countries have tripled to 1,043 in
the past 12 months from around 350 in the early 1990s.
     On the other side, many anti-whaling nations oppose all
commercial whaling and will make exceptions only for aboriginal
people, like the Alaskan Inuit who may hunt rare bowhead whales.
     "The bowhead is one of the most endangered whales and they
allow Eskimo to take it," Komatsu said.
     The IWC cleared a U.S. request for four grey whales a year
for the Makah tribe from Washington state, but rejected Japan's
request for a catch of 50 minke whales for four of its coastal
     The Koreans capture more than twice that number but say it
is a by-catch, or minkes caught accidentally by fishermen.
"Compared with our humble request for 50, their by-catch is
128," Komatsu said.
     His remarks raised a prospect that worries many IWC
delegates who said some other Asian countries such as Indonesia
and the Philippines looked set to take up whaling.
     With the IWC dominated by unyielding conservationists who
view whales as being especially intelligent and noble, new
whaling countries have no incentive to join and the IWC's
whaling members may one day quit.
     "Japan is doing ocean surveys of Bryde's whales," said
Sidney Holt, a marine biologist with the International League
for the Protection of Cetaceans. Bryde's whales are three times
as large as minkes, weighing between 20 and 25 tonnes.