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May 31, 2012

Breaking Ranks

Denmark goes it alone on whaling policy

  • A lone whale tail at sunset. Mariano Sironi/ICB/WCI

Denmark is woefully out of step with the rest of the European Union when it comes to protecting whales, dolphins and porpoises from being captured, killed, or traded. The EU position is pro-conservation, and it opposes commercial whaling. Denmark, on the other hand, takes the opposite view.

Unlike the other EU IWC nations, Denmark has the dual responsibility of upholding the EU common position and representing the interests of its non-EU protectorates—Greenland and the Faroe Islands—which conduct aboriginal hunts that are permitted by the International Whaling Commission. Because the EU supports subsistence aboriginal whaling, Denmark could represent its protectorates' interests while simultaneously protecting whales from commercial slaughter; yet it chooses to thwart the EU efforts and instead sides with the pro-commercial whaling nations of Japan, Iceland and Norway.

In advance of the 64th annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission this summer, Humane Society International and a coalition of like-minded organizations released Breaking Ranks, a look at Denmark’s contrary behavior at the IWC over the past two decades. Sadly, the findings aren’t surprising.

Not meeting expectations

The report highlights how Denmark's policies in three main areas contradict EU directives, regulations, and agreements by directly supporting commercial whaling, supporting Japan’s repeated requests for coastal commercial whaling and demonstrating reluctance to support proactive conservation initiatives.

In its active support of commercial whaling, the Danish government is thumbing its nose at its citizens by ignoring their views that these animals should be protected.

Making recommendations

A new Danish government formed in late 2011 has appointed a new commissioner to the IWC, offering some hope that the country’s position with respect to the conservation of whales, dolphins and porpoises could change. This may prove a significant factor as the 64th annual meeting of the IWC takes place in July. We recommend to the new leaders that their policies on whaling be firmly aligned with the principles and provisions of the EU. We also recommend that the Danish government:

  • engage constructively in timely negotiations and preparations for IWC meetings with EU Member States;
  • consult with the Member States of the EU in a transparent manner and act in good faith to support and contribute to the IWC's procedures to better manage aboriginal whaling activities;
  • avoid future conflicts over related matters by engaging constructively in timely negotiations and preparations for IWC meetings with EU Member States;
  • actively support the IWC's work to address threats to small cetaceans in accordance with their strong protection status under EU legislation;
  • actively work with the Government of the Faroe Islands to fully implement CITES legislation within the Faroese Islands; oppose the resumption of commercial whaling in all its forms.

The full report

For more information, download the full report—Breaking Ranks: Denmark goes it alone on whaling policy [PDF]

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