Subject: Q/A on whale sanctuary

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Mon, 27 May 1994 07:41:45

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Subject: Q/A on whale sanctuary
From:	SMTP%"MARMAM@UVVM.BITNET" 24-MAY-1994 15:15:48.55
Subj:	Whale Sanctuary
Date:         Tue, 24 May 1994 19:10:14 BST
Reply-To:     Marine Mammals Research and Conservation Discussion
Sender:       Marine Mammals Research and Conservation Discussion
Comments:     Warning -- original Sender: tag was rbaird@SOL.UVIC.CA
From:         Michael Halford <>
Subject:      Whale Sanctuary
To:           Multiple recipients of list MARMAM <MARMAM@UVVM.BITNET>
Answers to some questions about the Southern Ocean Sanctuary
(1)       Q. Is it true that the sanctuary will not save the minke
whales of the southern hemisphere because whalers will be able to
line up on the 40 degrees South boundary and kill the migrating whales?
          A. In theory, perhaps yes; in practice, no. Minke whales
congregate close to the ice to feed each summer. On migration they
are dispersed and are very rarely seen at all in mid-latitudes.
The only known place of tropical concentration is off the coast of
Brazil. Brazil has renounced whaling. Even if it should change its
policy it would have to conduct very expensive sightings surveys
before it could even begin to qualify for a catch quota under the
RMP.  Also, use of factories for pelagic whaling is forbidden
north of 40xS, for all baleen species except minke whales.
There are very limited opportunities for land-based commercial
whaling in the southern hemisphere and, again, any such whaling
would necessarily be preceeded by expensive surveys.
Sperm whales remain protected worldwide by the IWC's special
decision of 1981, reflected in paragraphs 16  and 10(d) of the
Schedule to the 1946 Convention; that is quite separate from the
worldwide pause in all commercial whaling - the 'moratorium'
adopted in 1982 [Para. 10(e) of the Schedule].
(2)       Q. Since there is a moratorium why do we need a
          A. There are at least two reasons. One is that the
sanctuary would be a long-term decision, whereas the moratorium is
reconsidered each year even though it stands until it is
overturned. The other is that the moratorium has never been fully
effective and is now beginning to leak like a sieve, through
objections, scientific whaling, and moves towards resumption of
outlaw whaling by non- and ex-members of IWC. A third reason is
simply that would signal the determination of the world community
of nations to protect the life in southern seas from future
mis-management and provide for its recovery from past abuses.
Effective protection of whales now calls for active measures, not
merely the passive defence of an increasingly shaky moratorium
(3)       Q. Surely creation of the sanctuary would not stop
'scientific whaling?, which is at present the biggest loophole in
the 1946 Convention and the abuse of the IWC's efforts to protect
          A.  Japan conducts scientific whaling on a large scale
because it is banking on the eventual re-opening of commercial
whaling. Once it is clear that there will be NO re-opening for a
very long time the Government is unlikely to continue to subsidise
the Cetacean Research Institute for this purpose (up to about 50%
of the costs). Even now there are signs that the funding sources
are tiring of this expensive and unproductive 'science'.
(4)       Q.  How can declaration of the sanctuary prevent outlaw
whaling there? Doesn't the IWC only have limited authority over
its own members?
          A. It's true the IWC can't legally stop outlaw whaling.
But since the Rio conference in 1992 decided by consensus that the
IWC is  the only authority entrusted with the regulation of
whaling and the conservation of whales outlaw whaling has become
less likely. If any whaling were to be permitted in the remote
high seas of the Southern Ocean then it might be practically
impossible to intercept pirate products originating there and
entering trade.
5)        Q.  Won't it be necessary to make some 'deal' with, say,
Norway, to gather sufficient votes for adoption of the sanctuary
          A.   No. Of course, it would be nice to see a change of
heart in Norway after its leadership of nearly a century of
destructive commercial whaling. But the community of nations
doesn't now depend on Norway's reluctant vote on this matter. It
is however desirable that one or more of the four Caribbean
nations that have been bought by Japan should act morally by
deserting their patron; but there is little if anything the IWC
can itself do to change their minds. If they do succeed in holding
the IWC hostage by blocking the sanctuary vote this year it will
simply come back to haunt them next year, and the year after...
probably in the form of strengthened and extended international
boycotts of their products and tourist attractions. It would be a
pity if the efforts to protect the life of the Antarctic continent
and in the seas surrounding it were to become immersed in such a
contest of wills. The fault for such international strife lies
entirely with the Government of Japan for making its financial and
technical aid to developing countries conditional on their
attitude in the IWC - often contrary to the basic policies of
those countries. What happened to the Seychelles is a case in
point, but at least that country honorably left the IWC rather
than starting to vote with and for Japan's policy.
(6)       Q. Is it true, as Japanese scientists and public
relations people say, that if the minke whales are not hunted they
will increase and impede the recovery of the endangered blue
          A.  No. Blue whales are now very few (certainly less
than 1000 from an original 250,000) but there is no evidence that
they are not now beginning to recover as expected. The idea that
minke and blue whales destructively compete with each other
because they eat the same food - krill - as do many other
Antarctic predators, has never been more than a hypothesis and now
it is not even a plausible one. Much effort has been put into
finding evidence of competition but none has been found. In fact
it is now clear why the blue whales have not recovered as fast as
most scientists expected: the Soviet whalers continued to kill
them and other endangered species in large numbers long after they
received IWC 'protection'.