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May 28, 2010

A Proposal Littered with Problems

Lifting whaling moratorium would spell disaster

Humane Society International


The world knows him for his distinguished turn as James Bond, 007, but actor Pierce Brosnan is also well-known as an advocate for oceans and marine life, especially whales. Recognizing how high the stakes are for whales this year at the annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission, in Agadir, Morocco, Pierce and his wife, Keely Shaye Smith, television host and correspondent, decided to meet the challenge by producing an advertisement encouraging President Barack Obama to honor his promise to uphold the commercial whaling moratorium, and to oppose an international deal that the majority of international environmental and animal protection organizations oppose. Pierce and Keely teamed up with Humane Society International, The HSUS, the International Fund for Animal Welfare and the National Resources Defense Council to distribute the advertisement. 

The compromise proposal coming up for a vote at this year’s meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) could spell disaster for whales all over the world. There are numerous problems with the proposal, but the one that sticks out like a sore thumb is the simple fact that it would legitimize commercial whaling by suspending the moratorium on commercial whaling and would allow whaling in the Antarctic Southern Ocean Sanctuary for ten years. This alone is a big step backwards from the progress made in 1986 when the moratorium went into effect.

There are additional problems throughout the lengthy document but the untrained eye might be fooled by the language used. HSI has a long history at the IWC and with our experience we deconstruct these problems here.

  • The proposal does not phase out commercial whaling but rather allows it to continue—throws it a lifeline, and makes it wholly legal within the IWC. It will stimulate new markets rather than close out struggling subsidized industries.
  • The proposal cannot legally limit whaling to only the countries that currently hunt whales commercially or for scientific purposes - Japan, Norway, and Iceland. Other member countries will have the right to whale once the ban has been suspended or lifted.
  • The proposal cannot legally prevent governments from ignoring the rules by filing an objection (like Norway has), leaving the IWC and returning with a reservation (like Iceland did), or conducting scientific whaling (like Japan is doing).
  • The proposal says only domestic trade is allowed but it lets Norway, Iceland and Japan keep their reservations to the CITES Appendix I listing of whales, which means these countries can still trade whale meat internationally.
  • The proposal does not include adequate compliance or enforcement mechanisms. Governments, not the IWC, will have the responsibility for punishing violations by their own fleets.
  • The proposal is not based on sound science. The quota numbers used are simply based on politics. There is no mechanism for lowering the quotas if the science shows that they are too high.
  • The costs of managing whaling would be paid by all the IWC member governments, not just the three whaling nations that will benefit from whaling. Yet there is no similar proposal for helping countries build or maintain whale watching industries.
  • The proposal does not address animal welfare issues.
  • The proposal was developed using a process that prevented civil society from having any input or role in the negotiations.

Humane Society International is working hard with other NGOs to keep this harmful proposal from being passed. Click here to read a letter we collaborated on that was recently sent to President Obama. Although we hope our actions will make a difference, but we still need your help! Please visit our "Take Action to Save Whales" page to see a list of the things you can do to help whales. The whales need your voice, now more than ever!