To kill whales or not to kill whales.
The International Whaling Commission originally was organized to recover populations of Great Whales in order to sustain whaling, and implemented a moratorium on hunting of all the Great Whales. As more and more nations have joined the Commission – there are now an amazing 88 of us – it has increasingly become an anti-whaling, conservationist organization. The result is intense disagreement between those who wish to reinstate the hunt of apparently recovered populations of Great Whales, and those who wish to continue to protect them from hunting.
Extremists contol the agenda as they often do, and everybody loses.
At one end are the members of Sea Shepherd, willing to protect whales at any cost, convinced of the righteousness of what they do. Perhaps you have checked them out. Here’s a blog of one who was present as an observer at the Morocco meeting You can get the sense of commitment, intransigence, and a willingness to occasionally use violence.
At the other end are the Japanese who have continued whaling despite the moratorium, whaling under the guise of doing ‘scientific research’, trying in every way possible to ‘encourage’ other members of the IWC to vote for the reinstitution of commercial whaling, as unwilling to compromise as the most strident ecoterrorists.
Will the moratorium on hunting the great whales be lifted? Will Japan change its ways, and cease to hunt whales ‘for scientific research purposes? Once again, not this year.
Last month at the annual IWC meeting, this time in Morocco, an odd compromise was floated. Let’s allow some limited commercial whaling of some relatively abundant species, and close the whaling-for-research loophole. It didn’t get anywhere – no vote, but tabled for a year to allow calmer consideration. Japan wanted more whaling rights than the proposal allowed for, and conservation nations were split. You can imagine where Sea Shepherd stood.
But what is the solution? Tabling the compromise for a year perhaps provides time to develop a better proposal, perhaps gives Japan more time to lobby for (some say buy) more support of its position. Extreme conservationists, like Sea Shepherd, have more time to harass Japanese vessels whaling in the Antarctic.
For any hope of resolution, the extreme positions of course must be abandoned. Surely there are objectives that most would agree with.
Despite the howls of the extremists, how about these:
- Endangered whale species should be allowed to recover at least to sustainable population levels.
- The Antarctic should continue to be a sanctuary for whales, enforced through economic sanctions.
- Whaling for scientific research should be terminated.
- Limited commercial whaling is probably going to be necessary to keep population numbers of some species at reasonable levels. Recovery of populations to historic levels is not a viable option, for the oceans have deteriorated in too many ways.
- Arctic Inuit should be able to hunt small numbers of whales, as they have traditionally done for many centuries.
- Small cetaceans (dolphins, porpoises, killer whales, pilot whales) should receive the same protection as the Great Whales.
The Inuit apologise to the whales – and fish – that they kill to eat. Not a bad idea. We need to co-exist.