Greenland Plans to Kill Whales Despite Whaling Commission’s Veto

At last June’s 64th meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC), Denmark—on behalf of its territory, Greenland—sought not only to renew, but to increase the existing aboriginal subsistence whaling quota for Greenland natives. Photo by Scott Portelli At last June’s 64th meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC), Denmark—on behalf of its territory, Greenland—sought not only to renew, but to increase the existing aboriginal subsistence whaling quota for Greenland natives.

The quota request was submitted under an IWC exemption that allows the hunting of large whales to satisfy indigenous peoples’ subsistence and cultural needs. In response, many countries raised concerns about the extensive commercial use of whale meat in Greenland, as well as its poor compliance with IWC regulations (see Fall 2012 AWI Quarterly). Despite these concerns, Denmark and Greenland refused to compromise at the meeting by reducing the number of whales sought, even to numbers previously approved by IWC parties. Consequently, the entire request was voted down, and when 2012 drew to a close, Greenland’s whaling quotas expired.

The IWC rules contain a procedure to deal with such situations—a country can call for a special meeting or request a postal ballot to, in this case, revisit the quota rejection. In 2002 for example, the United States asked for a special meeting of the IWC after its bowhead quota request—on behalf of its Alaskan Inupiat people—was rejected at the regular IWC meeting. At the special meeting, the quota was granted.

Rather than using either of these procedures for resolution, Greenland now prefers to go it alone. Ane Hansen, Greenland's Minister for Fisheries, Hunting and Agriculture, announced in early January that Greenland plans to self-allocate a whaling quota for 2013 and 2014, and that it will take more humpback and fin whales this year than under its previous IWC quota.

A legal analysis commissioned by AWI concluded that self-allocating an ASW quota in this way clearly violates the IWC’s treaty, and that the only way Greenland can legally hunt large whales is by securing the IWC's approval. AWI is engaging with colleagues and IWC parties to demand that Denmark and Greenland follow the IWC rules. Anything else would be pirate whaling.