Whaling: the great betrayal

March 23, 2010

source: The Independent

By Michael McCarthy, Environment Editor

Outrage as secret deal set to sweep away international moratorium

The moratorium on commercial whaling, one of the environmental movement's greatest achievements, looks likely to be swept away this summer by a new international deal being negotiated behind closed doors. The new arrangement would legitimise the whaling activities of the three countries which have continued to hunt whales in defiance of the ban - Japan, Norway and Iceland - and would allow commercial whaling in the Southern Ocean Sanctuary set up by the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in 1994.

Conservationists regard it as catastrophic, but fear there is a very real chance of its being accepted at the next IWC meeting in Morocco in June, not least because it is being strongly supported by the US - previously one of whaling's most determined opponents.

Should the deal go ahead, it would represent one of the most significant setbacks ever for conservation, and as big a failure for wildlife protection as December's Copenhagen conference was for action on climate change.

Agreed in 1982, and introduced in 1986, the whaling moratorium was brought in after a prolonged and intense campaign by green pressure groups highlighting the fact that many populations of the great whales had been drastically reduced by over-hunting - blue whales, the largest of all, had been driven to the brink of extinction - and that whaling itself, based on the firing of explosive harpoons into large and intelligent animals, was cruel.

 

 


However, three countries carried on commercial hunting regardless: Japan, by labelling its killing "scientific research" - a fiction believed by no one - and Norway and Iceland simply by lodging formal objections to the agreement.

Between them, although there is little market for whale meat, they have since killed more than 30,000 great whales, mainly minke whales, but also Bryde's, fin, sei and sperm whales - to the anger of many conservation-minded countries, in particular a group led by the US, Britain, Australia and New Zealand.

The result has been that IWC meetings have been characterised by unending confrontation between pro- and anti-whaling factions and the proposed new deal has arisen out of a three-year attempt to bring the altercations and arguments to an end.

After a series of meetings - behind closed doors - two IWC working groups have crafted a compromise proposal which is intended to end the confrontation by "giving something to both sides".

 

To read the rest of this story please visit:

 The Independent

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