Posted under news
The annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission has recently concluded in Portugal and, as in previous years, not a lot seems to have been accomplished. Japan and other countries are still pushing for “legitimate” whaling quotas, and there’s a new contingent – Inuits in Greenland – who are seeking leave to hunt 50 humpback whales over the 5 years. The Danish government is helping them to get this through. All talk about whaling and quotas was tabled until next year because of the controversy and heated opinions on all sides. There are some terrific daily summaries of the meeting at this blog run by the American Cetacean Society.
While there are few actual results being reported from this year’s meeting, a lot happened during the week. Most encouraging to me was the report that whale WATCHING is actually more profitable than whale KILLING! Imagine that. What gets me is that the IWC delegate to Iceland actually made the comment that whaling and whale watching were industries that could co-exist and “grow together”. Um, what? How does one expect to see more whales if one is also killing more whales? Total lack of sensibility. And sentimentally speaking (on top of conservation concerns), I really hope that Greenland does not start killing humpbacks since the whales up there are part of the same overall population seen here off New England.
One piece of good news on the whaling front, too, was that Norway actually suspended whaling for the season, despite having killed only half of its quota, because the country’s freezers were full and there was no room for more. Hopefully this means that fewer people are eating whale meat, depressing demand. If this trend continues, whaling can truly be put in the past for the industrialized nations who continue with it.
Related to this was the recent news that the governments of Japan and Norway heavily subsidize their whaling industries. I wonder how long their citizens will stomach tax dollars supporting declining industries? If people are no eating the meat, for how long can the tax dollars go to propping up industries that are no longer independently profitable? And Japan’s claims of scientific research have long been considered weak and controversial. Since science is fast catching up and non lethal techniques are being used to find out most of the information that Japan claims can only come from dead whales, their argument gets weaker and weaker.
According to this story, outgoing IWC chair Hogarth believes fewer whales will be killed if agreements can be put in place to regulate commercial whaling. While I think I understand what he means, I really think we need to focus on really eliminating as much whaling as possible (native populations are sort of the “wild card” on that count because of subsistence reasons). With increasing evidence of the potential sentience and intelligence of whales (larger whale brains have cellular complexities found only in the brains of humans and great apes), I personally believe they need to be viewed as intelligent animals, certainly not as dead profit centers. If it really is all about making money, then billions of dollars a year watching live whales should be a pretty significant reason not to kill them. IMNSHO, of course.