Dodgy deals on whaling?

Posted by Willie — 6 February 2009 at 5:24pm - Comments

Japanese whalers at work in the Southern Ocean Whale Sactuary

Japanese whalers at work in the Southern Ocean Whale Sactuary

There have been a number of confusing reports recently about whaling, so I thought it was only right to try and make sense of some of them for you.

Since the last International Whaling Commission (IWC) meeting in Chile, there have been inter-sessional international meetings to try and agree a way forward for the IWC, and break the impasse of recent years. Conservationists fear that the truth is pro-whalers are not willing to compromise, and are seeking acceptance of commercial whaling, which is still conducted despite an international ban on the practice. To make matters worse, commercial whaling, under the guise of 'scientific research' is conducted by the Government of Japan in the Southern Ocean, a globally-recognised whale sanctuary, every year.

Yet, despite talk of reform, of compromise, and finding a way forward, Japan and its allies have so far shown no sign of being willing to 'give up' anything.

In January reports emerged that a deal had been brokered, which looked like some sort of arrangement to permit commercial whaling by Japan in its coastal waters in return for scaling down its 'scientific' whaling in the Southern Ocean.

The apparent deal seemed to sanction whaling in Japan's territorial waters, and was roundly condemned by conservation groups and conservation-minded governments as being totally unacceptable - yet more proof that there was no 'compromise' or movement being made by the whalers.

But very soon it was reported that the alleged deal had been rejected by the Government of Japan, who, it seems were not prepared to give up their 'scientific whaling' at any cost.

Speaking of cost, whaling comes at quite a price. Not only do the Japanese tax-payers fund the whaling operation, they also fund domestic marketing campaigns to promote the eating of whale meat, and international subsidies to other countries Japan has 'recruited' to vote with it in the IWC.

None of that makes any sense at the best of times, especially when you consider that for the vast majority of Japanese citizens whaling is a non-issue, and only a tiny minority of them eat whale meat with any regularity. The Japanese Government is also actively trying stifle anti-whaling dissent within Japan, as we know all too well from the politically-motivated prosecution of two Greenpeace activists. In times of recession in Japan it makes even less sense to squander money on a dying industry that tarnishes Japan's international reputation.

So, the impasse continues, and Japan is still killing whales in the Southern Ocean. And whilst attention remains focussed on whaling, the many other threats to whales, like fishing gear, ship strikes, food depletion, climate change and pollution are virtually ignored, despite driving some species of whales, dolphins and porpoises to the brink of extinction.

The working group tasked with finding a way forward in the IWC is due to report back to the next meeting, in Madeira, in June. We'll wait and see.

About Willie

Hi, I'm Willie, I work with Greenpeace on all things ocean-related

Twitter: @williemackenzie

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