The 63rd annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) will take place from July 11-14, 2011 in the UK Channel Islands. As we do every year, HSI will have our policy team at the conference to advance whale protection and to address related enforcement and habitat concerns.
Thanks to the support of our animal advocates last year, we were able to defeat a package that would have allowed the resumption of commercial whaling. This year, the IWC agenda includes a proposal to create a whale sanctuary in the South Atlantic and a placeholder measure from Japan preserving its option to advance a proposal sanctioning commercial whaling in its coastal waters.
Delegates have considered both of these proposals many times before and they have always failed to obtain the required two-thirds majority vote. We’ll be pushing hard to secure the South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary, a longstanding objective of the Latin American bloc within the IWC.
Not on the agenda but directly related to the protection of whales are the possible trade measures to be imposed by the United States against Iceland for undermining the IWC moratorium on commercial whaling. Iceland kills minke and endangered fin whales and sells the meat to Japan and other nations. HSI, along with other animal protection organizations, filed a petition in March to initiate this action. The other significant activity is Australia’s International Court of Justice legal challenge to Japan’s whaling in the IWC-designated Southern Ocean Sanctuary. We are supportive of this litigation and stand ready to help with legal arguments and membership support.
Looming large over the entire meeting is the tragic disaster that struck Japan in March. Japan’s whaling infrastructure suffered considerable damage, and the long-term implications of the nation’s overall economic losses on Japanese whaling are unclear.
What is clear is that whales need our protection now more than ever. Radiation from Japan is just the latest threat to the marine environment in which they live. They also face growing danger from marine debris, noise, ship strikes, accidental catch by commercial fishing vessels, energy extraction activity, and climate change.
If Japan opted to abandon whaling in favor of more efficient, sustainable, and humane economic activities in the wake of its 2011 catastrophe, it would not be a moment too soon for the world’s whales. It would also set a powerful example for the governments of Iceland and Norway, which also still carry on cruel and unpopular commercial whaling operations.