17 March 2009

International Whaling Commission meeting in Rome

Between 9-11 March the Intersessional Meeting of the Commission on the Future of IWC (International Whaling Commission) took place in Rome.

Three main news came after the meeting: 1) Japan may be allowed to conduct commercial whaling near its coast while scaling down its activities in the Antarctic, 2) South Korea said that it is ready to resume commercial whaling, and 3) IWC wants to shortcut the scientific process and authorise a Small Working Group of member countries to continue developing a package deal of proposals for a resumption of commercial whaling, relying instead on ad-hoc catch limits set for five years at a time, without regard to long-term sustainability.

Conservationists consider the decisions taken during this meeting as a dangerous change of course which jeopardises the future of whales. “Coastal whaling for Japan would legitimise what Iceland and Norway are doing” said Nicolas Entrup from WDCS, and his colleague Mark Simmonds added “This is dreadful and terrifying news, South Korea’s announcement fulfils our worst expectations. We feared that the deal-making that has been going on would encourage other countries to join in and in the fullness of time lead to an expansion of whaling and this now seems to be exactly what is happening.”

Conservation and animal welfare organisations point of view are well summarized in a comment by Patrick Ramage, IFAW’s Global Whale Programme Director: “Science has been thrown to the whalers like Christians to the lions in ancient Rome... The message from the Commission was forget science, forget sustainability, compromise full steam ahead”.

Silvia Bonizzoni

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