Subject: Info: IWC & Pro- and Anti-Whaling Forces S (fwd)

Michael Williamson (
Sun, 9 Jun 1996 15:09:04 -0400 (EDT)

J. Michael Williamson
   Wheelock College
   Principal Investigator-WhaleNet <>
   Associate Professor-Science
voice: 617.734.5200, ext. 256
fax:    617.566.7369


---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Sat, 8 Jun 96 13:38:00 UTC 0000
Subject: Pro- and Anti-Whaling Forces S

Pro- and Anti-Whaling Forces Seek Showdown at ...

   NEW YORK, June 6 /U.S. Newswire/ -- Pro- and anti-whaling advocates
are  marshalling their forces to define the future of the International
Whaling Commission (IWC) when it holds its annual meeting in Aberdeen,
Scotland June 24-28.
   The IWC, established by the International Convention for the
Regulation of Whaling in 1946, has been roiled by seemingly
irreconcilable differences between those who want to conserve and
manage whales for sustainable use and those who want to use the
organization as a means of protecting whales from all harm.
   Under the Convention, the IWC was empowered "to provide proper
conservation of whale stocks and thus make possible the orderly
development of the whaling industry." But in recent years, strengthened
by the addition of non-whaling countries to IWC membership, to the
point where they command a three-quarters majority, anti-whaling
advocates have changed the course and complexion of the IWC's actions.
   This year, most of the contentious issues will come to a head at
   The big issue is whether the IWC has the authority to bypass the
provisions of the Convention and change its purpose without the consent
of all the member nations.  The issue has come up before but was not
pursued to a conclusion in areas such as the commercial whaling
moratorium, humane killing, and studies of small cetaceans. In the
past, member nations opposed in principle or practice to measures that
did not conform to the provisions of the Convention either filed an
objection and were exempted, or went along in a spirit of accommodation.
   This year the issue will be pressed in several areas. Foremost is
the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary (SOWS), a measure prohibiting
commercial whaling, but not whale research or aboriginal whaling, in
the 13 million square miles of water surrounding the Antarctic.  The
SOWS, passed in 1994, prevents the sustainable use of such abundant
and fast reproducing species as minke whales. These are not endangered
and number over three quarter of a million animals. The SOWS was not
approved by the IWC's Scientific Committee, the Commission for the
Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources, the Scientific
Committee for Antarctic Research or any other reputable scientific
body.  A battery of opinions from legal experts contends that passage
of the measure was illegal.
   Sustainable use advocates and many scientists and jurists will press
hard at this meeting to get the IWC back on the road mandated by the
Convention: the conservation, development and optimum utilization of
the whale stocks.
   With the passage of the commercial whaling moratorium in 1982, and
at the request of the IWC, the IWC Scientific Committee was assigned to
develop a Revised Management Procedure (RMP) that would expedite the
rebuilding of depleted whale stocks, ensure against future depletion,
and provide a means of utilizing abundant whale stocks at sustainable
levels.  The Scientific Committee worked for eight years to develop and
test a faultless procedure. But the anti-whaling majority of the IWC
delayed its implementation, causing the chairman of the Scientific
Committee to resign in protest. Those who oppose the resumption of
whaling, even at sustainable levels, are expected to raise more
roadblocks to incorporating the RMP with measures to ensure that catch
quotas and research requirements are enforced.
   Another area of strong contention will be a proposed ban on the use
of the electric lance. The lance is used to electrocute whales not
killed quickly with explosive harpoons. Anti-whaling proponents,
however, allege that the device is not fast enough to qualify as a
humane killing method. Japan, which uses the electric lance, has data
showing that the mean time to death when it is employed is 44 seconds.
   Adversaries of the proposed lance ban see it as just another device
to prevent implementation of the Revised Management Scheme. The ban is
opposed, too, by those who see the whole humane killing issue as
outside of the terms of the Convention.
   An effort to extend the authority of the IWC to dolphins and other
small cetaceans also is expected to face strong opposition at Aberdeen.
Three reasons given for opposing it are: The IWC Convention only
provides jurisdiction over large whales, not small whales, dolphins or
porpoises. The UN Conference on the Environment and Development, the
Convention on Biological Diversity, and a number of other conservation
entities recommend regional management over international management
for oceanic species with regional habitats, such as most small
   And third, most countries do not want to see small cetacean
management enmeshed in ideological disputes, as at the IWC.
   Other issues that will be raised at the IWC meeting are likely to be:
-- The new assessment of Atlantic minke stocks based upon new
Norwegian sightings surveys.