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It seems somewhat unfathomable to me that here in 2010, this is still an open question! Yet, on the eve of what will be a critical meeting of the International Whaling Commission in Morocco beginning on June 21, the fate of whales still hangs in the balance.
One thing that is maddening about this proposed compromise process is that in the last few days, numerous stories have been published that all undermine Japan’s thin veneer of legitimacy. First, there’s the whaler who has stepped forward to talk in detail, from first hand knowledge, about the pilfering and reselling of whale meat. There are the reports that Japan is bribing countries to vote with them, using not only money but entirely false arguments about the impact of (re)growing whale populations. And now, there is a story about new research – not into learning about whales but to find new ‘applications’ for whales’ bodies.
And still I wonder – are these stories too late? Will there be enough momentum against sanctioned commercial whaling to make a difference? How deeply entrenched and backwards are the politics at the IWC?
South Korea has indicated that if commercial whaling is restored for Japan, Norway and Iceland, it will also start to issue whaling permits. I think it is folly to think that this can truly be a controlled return to sanctioned whaling. It cannot wind up with a reduction in whale catch if other countries start killing whales as well. And while Japan is the most visible villain in this battle, this compromise also involves Norway and Iceland, whose combined whaling catch exceed Japan’s.
Meanwhile new and legitimate research is producing stories all the time about whales, including a recent story about long term ‘friendships’ formed by humpback whales. A simple Google search on whale-human encounters will yield seemingly countless anecdotes which only bolster the growing theories of intelligence, sentience, and community amongst whales. These are not simple fish. There is no humane way to kill a whale. This should not even be a subject of debate any longer!
Oh and I want to add – as this was pointed out to me today by the fine folks at the Whale Center of New England – this proposed compromise does NOT guarantee an end to whaling in 10 years. It merely attempts to add limits to catches over the next decade. Once that decade concludes, we could well be back at the drawing board and having to fight from scratch to end whaling. Again.
So what do we do? I have sent more than one message to Obama at the White House (the guy who promised to end whaling). I will send another. Wherever you live, regardless of how your government stands on the issue, tell them you are against whaling. If your government is against whaling, the reinforcement that this is the right position is important. If it supports whaling, it needs to hear opposition.
As I said, the IWC meeting starts on June 21. There are multiple avenues for tracking new from it: IWCblogger, the IWC itself, even through a Japanese site (which could be painful yet interesting for an alternate perspective). WCDS also has a Twitter feed, AllEyesonIWC, which will have information about the meeting.
I’m on the edge of my seat!