Bush Administration Selling Out Whales And The American Public

Santiago, Chile—As the 60th meeting of the International Whaling Commission continues its deliberations, the Bush administration is undermining decades of whale conservation progress as it seeks to cut a deal with whaling nations that could lead to the official resumption of commercial whaling. Their deal making will be done behind closed doors without public oversight or accountability as the Bush administration has abandoned American principles of openness and honesty in order to engage in secret deliberations.

"It's no secret that President Bush has one of the worst environmental record of any administration in history, but to sacrifice whales and democracy to placate whaling countries who have ignored repeated calls by many of the world's governments to end whaling, is beyond the pale," states D.J. Schubert, a wildlife biologist with the Animal Welfare Institute. "If this administration is willing to sacrifice whales to achieve a political end, there's no telling what damage it could do to wildlife as President Bush's eight-year reign of terror ends."

Already this week, the Bush administration has:

  • Ignored IWC rules for reporting transgressions of the IWC Schedule by refusing to admit that the illegal killing of a gray whale by Makah tribal members was an infraction of the IWC Schedule
  • Indicated that it plans on supporting Greenland's request for an aboriginal subsistence whaling quota of 10 humpback whales despite evidence of a significant commercial element to Greenland's current hunt and the gross over-estimation of its aboriginal need for whale products
  • Refused to promote transparency and openness within IWC deliberations by opposing attempts to include civil society to observe and participate in all work of the IWC and any working groups

"Despite promoting itself as a beacon of democracy and acting as a model for other countries in regard to transparency and openness in governmental operations, the Bush administration has decided to negotiate the future of the world's whale in secret," adds Susan Millward, a research associate with AWI. "The desire of the United States to conduct such deliberations without the accountability that comes from public scrutiny appears indicative of its intent to abandon its support for the whales in favor of support for the whalers."

The United States is one of 24 countries who will engage in secret meetings over the course of the next year as they attempt to develop a package deal to "fix" the IWC through a process devised and promoted by Dr. William Hogarth, the US Commissioner to the IWC and the current Chair of the international body. Dr. Hogarth's plan attempts to "fix" a convention that is not broken and is only at a stalemate because of the unwillingness of Japan, Norway, and Iceland to comply with international opinion and stop whaling coupled with the failure of the current Administration to use all diplomatic and legal muscle to permanently end whaling by these rogue nations.

For years, the United States was considered a leader in the worldwide effort to protect and conserve whales.  Under the Bush administration, however, the United States' whale conservation agenda has been replaced by a plan of compromise and capitulation.  Such a dramatic shift in policy is inconsistent with the will of the vast majority of Americans who strongly oppose whaling. Reflecting the will of the people on the issue, the United States House of Representatives, only days ago, unanimously passed H.Con.Res. 350 demanding that the United States strongly support whale conservation, oppose any weakening of the commercial whaling moratorium approved by the IWC in 1982, and oppose any new form of whaling.

"It is clear from the actions of the United States at this week's IWC meeting that the will of the American public and of Congress itself is of no concern or consequence to the Bush administration," claims Schubert. "Yet again the arrogance of the Bush administration is clearly on display as it undermines decades of conservation gains for whales in a matter of days, abandons its principles of transparency, and ignores the opinions of its own constituents and even Congress. In this case, it's not just the interests of the American people that are being abandoned but also the future of the world's whales."