Compromising the Commercial Whaling Moratorium

The International Whaling Commission (IWC) recently held two meetings of the “Small Working Group on the Future of the IWC,” which was formed at the last annual meeting in Santiago, Chile. Despite civil society being excluded from these important discussions, Susan Millward and D.J. Schubert ensured AWI’s attendance at the margins of both these meetings held in St. Petersburg, Florida, and Cambridge, UK. Our staff was there to glean firsthand information from attendees, provide our opinions on the process, and interact with government representatives seeking our expertise.

Sadly, the US is front and center of these “future” negotiations, with the IWC Chair and head of the US delegation, William Hogarth, PhD, leading the charge. With the pro-whalers pushing for a resumption of commercial coastal whaling, and the conservation-minded camp clamoring for a whale sanctuary, any consensus will inevitably include measures to placate both sides. The result will be more needless whale killing, despite Hogarth’s ridiculous protestations that the package is a move to reduce the number of whales being killed.

Such a compromise would result in more whale deaths, because 1) it would not address the ongoing abuse of loopholes in the Whaling Convention that allow whales to be killed by countries with objections to the whaling ban and for scientific research; 2) enforcement mechanisms to effectively police any agreement are virtually impossible; 3) it would not be possible to prevent additional countries from whaling, since whaling quotas are based on populations of animals; and 4) it would not protect the most vulnerable populations of whales who live in coastal waters, some of whom are critically endangered.

IWC member nations and organizations that follow the whaling issue closely must not be duped by the rhetoric. AWI and colleagues with many decades of IWC experience are consistently countering these attempts to compromise the moratorium and are actively opposing the US delegation’s role in these discussions, while strongly urging the new administration to change direction.

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