June 25, 2008

Compromise Sets Whaling Body on Path to Peace

The International Whaling Commission (IWC) has cracked open the door to the possibiliby of repealing the commercial whaling ban.

The group approved a reform path designed to find a compromise between anti- and pro-whaling nations.

Representatives at the IWC's yearly meeting in Chile agreed that the current stalemate should be stopped.

The nations will try to agree on a package of laws by next year's meeting.

It is likely that the primary elements of the package will have to include the partial renewal of commercial hunting in coastal waters to meet the approval of whaling nations.

The endeavor is backed by some conservation groups because they believe the measures will lead to more effective hunting regulations, and a reduction in the overall number of whales killed each year.

Attempts to reform the commission have been championed by IWC chairman William Hogarth.

"It has to work," he told delegates.

"We are the premium body set up for the conservation of whales, and we have to step up to the plate."

While more effective conservation of whales is the primary goal of Dr. Hogarth and the US, other nations including Japan, Norway, and Iceland will be pushing for the acknowledgement that sustainable whaling is warranted.

Japan has been a notable figure in early discussions, and is fully supportive of the reform action.

According to officials, nothing is ruled out of the final package, including the possible end to its yearly Antarctic hunt, which is permitted under a clause protecting hunting for scientific purposes.

New Zealand's minister of conservation Steve Chadwick said, "We wish to see the end of special permit whaling."

"The commission has taken a big step forward by setting up this diplomatic process, but it will not be easy; the path ahead is formidable."

"Ninety-two percent of New Zealanders oppose commercial whaling - that is a political reality."

The chore for the anti-whaling nations is to agree on a deal that is acceptable to their citizens while also being acceptable to whaling nations like Japan, and Norway.  

The only area of major disagreement in this usually quarrelsome gathering has been over subsistence whaling in Greenland.

The Arctic state, which is still a territory of Denmark, has asked to add the humpback whale to its list of permissible species, which already includes minkes, fins and bowheads.

But because Denmark is also a member of the EU, it is supposed to agree to a unified position with other EU nations on key issues at the IWC meeting.  Many of the EU nations, including the UK, vehemently opposed the humpback request.

The nations felt that Greenland had not provided substantial evidence that its citizens needed the extra meat.  Proving so would allow Greenland to be awarded a subsistence license. 

A recent report issued by the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA), showed that nearly 25% of the whale meat from existing hunts were sold through supermarkets.

In a Monday night meeting, the EU consented to oppose the motions.  Delegates from Denmark stormed out in protest.  The request is almost certain to fail without backing from the EU.