Bite-Back August 2007

The International Whaling Commission (IWC), meeting recently in Alaska, has overwhelmingly upheld the ban on commercial whaling, thereby totally rejecting last years ‘St Kitts and Nevis Declaration’ that called for an end to the ban. The Commission then went on to make an unequivocal condemnation of Japans so called ‘scientific whaling programme’. It pointed out that it had again and again asked Japan to stop its lethal research on whales and reiterated that not only was the research not needed, but also that it had not achieved any of its goals and could anyway be done by non lethal means. While this may have been embarrassing for Japan, it hasn’t stopped its plans to double this years take to 900 Minkes, fifty fin whales and fifty humpback whales.

Japan receives the support of Norway and Iceland, as well as a bunch of small non-whaling countries it bribes to vote with it, but the only EU member that supports the return to commercial whaling is Denmark. The previous Danish government was against whaling and supported the creation of the Antarctic Whale Sanctuary (where the Japanese fleet now likes to go on its killing sprees) but the present government relies on two Greenland and two Faroese MPs to keep it in power and hence overrides the wishes of its people, the great majority of whom are against whaling, to support an end to the ban. Greenland is keen to increase its yearly aboriginal subsistence whaling quota to 200 Minkes, 19 Fin whales, 10 humpbacks and 2 bowhead whales, claiming that it is needed due to its population increase, although its population is actually falling. Greenland doesn’t even tell the IWC that it kills more than 4000 other cetaceans every year, including Narwhals, Belugas, killer whales, porpoises and pilot whales.

As for the Norwegians, it has recently emerged that their whaling fleet is actually dumping tons of whale blubber overboard as there is no domestic market for it, particularly as it contains high levels of chemical toxins. Norway, along with Japan and Iceland, recently attempted to get the restrictions on the commercial trade in whale products lifted at the last meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). Not only was this firmly rejected but an Australian proposal was accepted instead, which stated that there should be no review of any great whale species listing while the IWC ban was in place.

These decisions send a clear signal that it is time these governments called a halt to their whaling industries when whale numbers are already so depleted and the demand for whale products is so low. If you would like to express your views to those making the decisions email the Norwegian PM Jens Stoltenberg on statsministeren@smk.dep.no, the Danish PM Anders Rasmussen on stm@stm.dk and the Japanese government at http://www.kantei.go.jp/foreign/forms/comment.html

John Nightingale