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Greenland Wants New Whaling Rules

September 15, 2008

According to BBC News, Greenland is trying to eliminate its whale hunt from the control of the International Whaling Commission (IWC).

The state’s whalers are angered that the IWC has declined to allow the addition of humpback whales to its annual allowance on two occasions.

The move would make Greenland the only state outside the IWC to hunt the humpback whale.

The news comes just before a Florida meeting aimed at uniting the divided IWC, a “peace process” which began over a year ago.

Documents sent by Greenland’s delegation shows a division still remains.

People in Greenland’s Inuit community are permitted to catch minke, fin, and bowhead whales under regulations stating that whale hunting can occur where there is a cultural and nutritional need.

At both the 2007 and 2008 IWC meetings, Greenland requested that an annual quota of 10 humpback whales be added to the permission regulations.

The requests were refused on both occasions due to the IWC’s belief that Greenland has no real need for the meat, and that its current hunting is already too commercial.

Now a request has been sent from the fisheries ministry of Greenland to Denmark’s foreign ministry, which represents Greenland in the IWC, requesting that Greenland remove itself from the IWC.

It is not clear whether Greenland wants Denmark to leave the IWC, to stop representing Greenland, or just wishes for whaling to be a home-rule issue.

The issue will likely take several months to be resolved.

If Greenland withdraws from the IWC, its whaling would be able to grow without international oversight.

In several Artic countries there is resentment for what is believed to be western values imposed upon artic communities.

Many wonder why whaling is regulated internationally when regional bodies manage fisheries.

In 1992, Greenland, Norway, Iceland, and the Faroe Islands established the North Atlantic Marine Mammal Commission (Nammco). 

The move was an indication that the northern countries are looking for another way to manage their marine resources.

Nammco concluded that Greenland should have an annual quota of 10 humpbacks in its annual meeting earlier this month.

Currently Greenland is sticking to the IWC ruling, but the obedience in not likely to last.

Japanese officials say the establishment of a similar body to Nammco for the North Pacific is one of the options if they believe the IWC becomes, in their opinion, beyond redemption.

More than a year ago, Chairman William Hogarth embarked on talks to explore whether some meeting of minds was possible.

Anti-whaling activists dislike the process because it could open the door to a limited lifting of the 1986 moratorium on commercial hunting.

Few anti-whaling countries want to compromise on the core issues.

Argentina believes “issues such as scientific whaling and (Japanese) small-scale coastal whaling should be re-examined in the light of a spirit of commitment and within the framework of a dialogue which will allow us to leave aside the winner/loser rationale which has lately prevailed at IWC”.

But other anti-whaling countries like the Netherlands want the commercial whaling moratorium to stay.  Meanwhile, South Korea might ask for a quota if the moratorium were to be lifted, saying that some of its communities have a whaling culture dating back thousands of years.

The country says, “The ever-lasting whaling moratorium is destined to give rise to continuing socio-economic hardships to the communities concerned.”

Norway believes the IWC’s refusal of a quota showed “an appallingly patronizing attitude vis-à-vis the needs of indigenous communities”.

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