Whales' Fate Hangs on Whaling Commission Power Struggle

MADEIRA, Portugal, June 24, 2009 (ENS)

A paper released today by the International Whaling Commission shows that Japan kills more whales than any other country, although Japan is a signatory to the international ban on commercial whaling, which took effect in 1986. Since then, Japan has killed about 12,000 whales, under a provision in the convention which permits whaling for scientific research purposes.

The paper "Catches by IWC member nations in the 2008 and 2008/2009 seasons," released by the commission at its week-long annual meeting shows that Japan killed 1,004 whales out of a total of 1,936 whales killed during this period.

"Japan's fraudulent 'scientific' whaling program continues to be on a scale unmatched by other countries like Norway or Iceland which refused to sign onto the moratorium on commercial whaling in 1982 at the IWC," said Sara Holden of Greenpeace International, who is in Madeira for the IWC annual meeting.

A separate report provided by the Japanese government about its 2008-09 whale hunt in Antarctica, made public at the IWC meeting Tuesday, shows that a high number of pregnant and lactating females were killed.

Of 679 whales reported killed in the Southern Ocean, part of which is an Australian Whale Sanctuary, 304 were female, and of these, 192 were pregnant and four were lactating.

Whaling Nations Adamant

The commission's 85 member governments opened the 61st IWC annual meeting Monday, after a year of closed-door discussions that have failed to secure agreement from whaling nations Japan, Iceland and Norway to respect the commission's scientific procedures and commercial whaling ban.

The Small Working Group on the Future of the International Whaling Commission, SWG, has attempted to resolve the fracture between whaling nations and conservation nations. But the group has reached no agreement on the shape of a core package or even on the concept of how to approach the issues.

"Like other living resources, whales can be utilized in a sustainable manner, when appropriate conservation and management measures, based on best scientific evidence and with the best available tools, are applied," said Akira Nakamae, who heads the Japanese delegation. "Japan has expressed its willingness to accept such measures, including the placement of international observers on board whaling vessels, the deployment of satellite based real-time vessel monitoring systems, market monitoring with DNA finger prints, among others."

But Japan's position failed to attract majority support. IWC members could only agree to postpone for one year the decision on whether to allow Japan to hunt whales in its coastal waters in return for scaling down or ending its "research whaling" in the Antarctic Ocean.

Patrick Ramage, whale program director for International Fund for Animal Welfare, expressed the conservationist point of view. "Such a deal would violate the moratorium and established scientific procedures, legitimize Japan's ongoing 'scientific' whaling and ignore decades of work by the IWC Scientific Committee. It's time to get rid of commercial whaling, not the whaling ban." 

Whale Watching a Growth Industry

A new report released Wednesday by the International Fund for Animal Welfare documents growth in the global whale watching industry over the past decade.
The country-by-country economic analysis by Economists at Large and Associates of Melbourne, Australia shows more than 13 million people took whale watching tours last year in 119 countries worldwide, generating ticket fees and tourism expenditures of more than €1.5 billion during 2008.

An Humane Society petition calling for a global whale sanctuary is being sent to leaders of IWC member countries to promote sanctuaries and whale watching as a more humane and scientifically sound economic alternative to whale hunting.

Australia Funds Small Whale Conservation

Australia's Environment Minister Garrett pledged AU$500,000 (284,927) to help save these smaller cetaceans.

The money will be dedicated to the IWC's Small Cetacean Fund. The WWF report states that while great whales are now somewhat protected by the international commercial whaling moratorium, small cetacean hunts continue in many countries, largely unmanaged and unchecked by the international community.

In addition, dolphins living in parts of the Mekong River between Cambodia and Laos are on the brink of extinction due to pollution, WWF warned Friday.

WWF researchers found high toxic levels of pesticides such as DDT and environmental contaminants such as PCBs along with mercury in its analysis of 21 dead dolphins retrieved between 2004 and 2006.

Sea Shepherd Plans Its 2009 Southern Ocean 'Research' Expedition

With a new, faster ship as well as its flagship Steve Irwin, the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society will return to the Southern Ocean in December to renew its efforts to keep the Japanese whaling fleet from killing whales, Captain Paul Watson said today.

"This is a research project," said Watson, with a smile. "We've decided to demonstrate our solidarity with the Japanese, Australian and New Zealand Research projects. Our primary objective is to research non-lethal means for defending whales.

On board will be an Animal Planet film crew to document the third season of the documentary series "Whale Wars," shown on the Discovery Channel.

Soure: http://www.ens-newswire.com/ens/jun2009/2009-06-24-01.asp