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February 27, 2010

Will the IWC "Support Group" Sell Out Whales?

Humane Society International

Update—March 5, 2010: No agreement was reached at this meeting, but talks continue and whales remain under threat.

On March 2, members of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) will meet in St. Petersburg, Florida to discuss a draft package aimed to end the deadlock between whaling and conservation countries. The proposal resulted from a series of private, closed door meetings held during the last year between the representatives of select nations’ governments. The Support Group, an ad hoc committee of the IWC, issued a draft document titled Consensus Decision to Improve the Conservation of Whales on February 22, 2010—just one week before the start of the meeting. The plan is to then bring this package deal to a vote at the annual IWC meeting in Morocco in June.

Despite the ban on commercial whaling, three countries (Japan, Norway and Iceland) have continued killing thousands of whales each year by exploiting various loopholes in the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling.

Deal legalizes commercial whaling for 10 years

Although the Package’s “Vision Statement” promises conservation, the deal itself does not contain any meaningful conservation gains that would compensate for legitimizing the three whaling nations commercial whaling. Further, the deal proposes to legalize commercial whaling for 10 years without calling for a phase-out or phase-down of whaling.

Early press reports from Iceland, Norway and Japan all indicate support for this deal as they think it will be a boon to their dying whaling industries.

This deal essentially depoliticizes commercial and scientific whaling without ending either one. It legitimizes whaling for at least a decade, effectively rewarding the whaling nations for their decades of intransigence and disregard for the repeated requests of the international community to cease whaling. In short, this deal represents a step backwards, not forwards, for the IWC, and it will eliminate or degrade decades of positive change for whales.

Courageous opposition

Most, if not all, animal welfare and conservation non-governmental organizations across the globe have condemned this deal. Yet traditionally conservation minded countries, including the United States, have not opposed this deal. However, one country stands apart. Australia, a country with a long-standing history of protecting and conserving whales, has rejected the deal and is offering an alternative way forward—one which focuses on protecting whales rather than playing politics and placating the whaling nations.

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