Subject: IWC: Row as IWC accepts Norway whal (fwd)

Michael Williamson (
Fri, 28 Jun 1996 14:35:26 -0400 (EDT)


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Date: Tue, 25 Jun 96 11:31:00 UTC 0000
Subject: Row as IWC accepts Norway whal

Row as IWC accepts Norway whale-surge estimate

     By Helen Smith
     ABERDEEN, Scotland, June 24 (Reuter) - The International
Whaling Commission on Monday accepted Norway's assertion of a
surge in the population of minke whales, provoking a furious
response from anti-whaling groups.
     According to Norway's estimate, the minke whale population
in the northeast Atlantic has grown to 118,000 from an IWC
estimate of around 75,000 last year.
     On the first day of the IWC's 48th annual meeting,
commission scientists said the estimate was "adequate."
     Norway said the decision vindicated its claim that its catch
quotas, set at 425 minke whales for this year, posed no threat
to the future of the species, one of the smallest whales.
     "For Norway this is a very important step forward in our
claims that our whaling is proven to be on a scientific basis,"
Norway's IWC Commissioner Kare Bryn told a news conference.
     But animal rights groups accused the IWC of succumbing to
political pressure from Norway, the only member to have opted
out of a global moratorium on commercial whaling agreed in 1982.
     "We have to remember there are very large sums of money at
stake here," said Sidney Holt, representing a number of
anti-whaling groups.
     Norway currently honours an IWC ban on the export of
whalemeat, but it has a mountain of blubber it would like to
sell to Japan where the whale fat is a delicacy.
     Last year, the IWC rejected Norway's population estimates,
forcing it to revise them down to around 75,000 from 85,000.
     The queried estimate then was blamed on a computer error and
Norway also reduced its catch quota for minke whales for that
year. Anti-whaling groups said the latest figures were in doubt
because they had been largely collected by whalers.
     "These are Norwegian estimates; the data were collected by
observers paid by Norway, three quarters of whom were whalers,
calculations were done by a Norwegian computer centre using a
poorly-tested computer programme," said the International Fund
for Animal Welfare in a news release.
     But Norway in turn accused the predominantly anti-whaling
IWC of political bias in shifting away from a treaty that would
have allowed a gradual resumption of commercial whaling once
whale populations had recovered.
     Many IWC members, including Britain, are shifting their
stance from saving whales from extinction to one which would
outlaw killing them altogether.
     "Simply because there may be some populations of species
that are sustainable, doesn't mean they have to be exploited,"
said British fisheries minister Tony Baldry.
     "A whale when alive is a very beautiful creature. A whale
when dead is just a few tonnes of meat. I don't really see that
Norway and Japan need those tonnes of meat to sustain their
     Japan currently catches about 300 minke whales a year under
the guise of "research" whaling, permitted under the IWC
moratorium. It wants a quota allowing its Pacific coastal
communities to catch 50 minke whales this year.
     Some 300 delegates from 30 countries are attending the June
24-28 meeting in the Scottish city of Aberdeen.
     Debate on Tuesday is expected to become heated when the
Commission considers a request from the United States, the
whaling ban's staunchest supporter, for an exemption allowing a
North American Indian tribe to catch five grey whales.
     The IWC  moratorium, agreed in 1982, allows "aboriginal"
whaling by groups that depend on hunting whales for sustenance.
     Oslo and Tokyo argue their whalers are following ancient
traditions and rely on whale-hunting for their survival, so they
should be exempted as aboriginal.