NGOs ask IWC to boost whale-watching, not whaling

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, June 1995:

DUBLIN, Ireland––There’s scant
chance the International Whaling
Commission will revise its 47-year-old char-
ter at the annual meeting commencing May
29, to formally promote regulated whale-
watching rather than regulating whaling, but
Cetacean Society International president
emeritus Robbins Barstow thought he might
as well ask.
With the Southern Oceans Whale
Sanctuary approved a year ago and little like-
lihood the technical obstacles to approving
quotas for renewed commercial whaling will
be cleared away, non-governmental organiza-
tions are in a position to seek further goals.
Japan and Norway, the only IWC member
nations with an expressed yen to go whaling,
have a choice of either playing by IWC rules
or pulling out and risking repercussions––
probably more with consumers than with gov-
ernments, but at a time when trade relations
for both are a bit shakier than a year ago. The
strength of the Japanese currency and the
Norwegian rejection of membership in the
European Community both work against their
ability to export, and both nations are
embroiled in international conflicts over fish-
ing rights, as well, worth far more to their
economies than whaling.

Accordingly, Barstow and other
NGO representatives are to offer the IWC a
policy statement which, if ever adopted in
principle, would formalize the sense many
observers have had for some years that if the
participants aren’t gaffed by political necessi-
ty, they are unlikely to ever reopen commer-
cial whaling by choice.
“We believe,” the Barstow state-
ment begins, “that even if commercial whal-
ing could be shown to be theoretically sus-
tainable, it cannot now be justified. We
therefore urge all member nations to work
toward the goal of an IWC management
regime of total global protection from con-
sumptive, commercial exploitation, and from
irresponsible scientific whaling. Sustainable use of natural
resources does not require consumptive use. We believe that the
optimum utilization of cetacean resources must stem from non-
lethal, non-consumptive research, recreational, and educational
activities, such as those involved in benign whalewatching.”
The statement does, however, hedge bets. “While con-
tinuing to maintain staunch opposition to any resumption of com-
mercial whale killing,” it continues, “or any change in the IWC’s
zero catch limits, we urge member nations to participate in discus-
sions that seek to establish a failsafe system of supervision and
control to be in effect should commercial whaling nevertheless
come to be authorized at some future date. Meanwhile we urge
continued discussion of non-lethal research methods and humane
killing issues, including restraints on whaling under special per-
mits for scientific purposes. We further urge active work to pro-
mote public education regarding the ethical arguments against
commercial whale killing.”
Consulting with many other NGO representatives in
drafting the statement, Barstow expected to receive the signatures
of large groups including the International Fund for Animal
Welfare, the Humane Society of the U.S., and the World Wildlife
Fund, as well as those of the many small and less tactically conser-
vative observer groups.
Norway cuts quota
Norway, defying the IWC by holding a commercial hunt
of minke whales each year since 1993 as well as a so-called scien-
tific hunt, was embarrassed on April 28 when it was obliged to
acknowledge computer programming errors made in 1988 and
1989 that caused the Whale Research division of the Norwegian
Fisheries Ministry to estimate the northeast Atlantic minke whale
population as circa 86,700 instead of the 60,000 claimed by
Greenpeace, whose scientific staff pointed out the errors some
years ago. Making corrections, Norway set the population at
69,600, 20% less than before, and cut this year’s whaling quota
from 301 to 232––after the whalers had sailed.
“This just isn’t fair,” responded captain Olav Olvasen Jr.
by radio from the Nybraena, one of the vessels briefly scuttled by
the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society in anti-whaling actions.
“We plan to shoot all the whales that were given to us, unless the
government offers compensation.”
Agreed whaling tycoon Steinar Bastesen, “We will shoot
301 whales if the government does not give us full compensation
for the reduction.”
“If there is anyone who exceeds their quota,” warned
fisheries minister Jan Henry T. Olsen, “they will lose their whale-
hunting license. We have driven a very difficult foreign policy on
this case, and if the whalers do not stick within their limits, they
risk losing their concession.”
Welcoming the possibility that Norwegian whalers
would become outlaws to their own government as well as to the
rest of the world, Paul Watson of the Sea Shepherds denied “any
truth in the accusations of Bastesen that we have had any meetings
with Norwegian government officials where we made a deal on
the quota reduction in trade for our promise to reduce our actions
this year in Norway,” where the Sea Shepherd record in 1992-
1994 included scuttling two ships and getting rammed by the
Norwegian patrol boat Andennes.
Grey whales
Grey whales, no longer officially endangered, may also
come under discussion by the IWC––which has little authority to
do anything for them, since the present threat to their well-being
comes not from whalers but land-based development. Grupo de
los Cien, Mexico’s most prestigious environmental organization,
took out a full-page ad in the May 11 edition of The New York
T i m e s to draw public notice to Mitsubishi’s plan to build a 70-
square-mile salt works at Laguna San Ignacio. “Honored as a
UNESCO World Heritage Site, Laguna San Ignacio is the last
pristine grey whale nursery,” the ad charged “But what will it
look like after operations begin? Plans call for pumping 462 mil-
lion metric tons of water a year out of the lagoon,” which “will
reduce its salinity and the buoyancy critical to the whales; build-
ing a mile-long concrete pier directly in the whales’ path; dredg-
ing the lagoon itself.” The Grupo de los Cien said a similar devel-
opment has driven whales away from nearby Guerrero Negro
lagoon, and warned that the salt operation could jeopardize World
Bank funding to administer the Biosphere Reserve. Letters may
be sent to President Ernesto Zedillo, c/o The Embassy of Mexico,
1911 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, DC 20006.
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