WDCS has questioned suggestions by US researchers writing in the journal, Nature that the introduction of tradable quotas for catching whales could reduce the number of whales killed each year.
In the article, the academics argue that a market of whale quotas that could be bought and sold would allow environmental groups to effectively buy whales in order to save them and so let whalers profit from the animals without killing them.
WDCS welcomes discussions about how to end commercial whaling but strongly opposes such a proposal. There are strong ethical reasons for this opposition (whales being viewed as just a commodity) but there are also practical and strategic reasons for not supporting this idea. These include the fact that buying the whales’ lives would help prop up a dying industry and other countries could be encouraged to start or resume commercial whaling to claim their share.
The ideas in the article in Nature are not entirely new and the notion of trying to buy the whales from the whalers has certainly been proposed before. Commenting on the article in Nature, WDCS CEO, Chris Butler-Stroud, says: “If we look at fisheries management regimes such as the European Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), quotas are sometimes less than scientific and more often subject to political wrangling. The more countries and companies that have a financial interest in whales and whaling could mean that just like fisheries, quotas could be subject to being driven up.
Look at the current high prices for some the large long-lived fish species and yet the market is not driving down quotas.
Much opposition to whaling is not about numbers but is down to ethical and welfare considerations – whaling remains inhumane and whales are unsuitable for sustainable use by humans (they are long living and slow to reproduce). There is no humane way to kill a whale at sea and the hunting process can never be an exact exercise, and so for many countries (and most of the public) the move to the concept of property rights and their trade is unacceptable in the conservation and protection of whales and dolphins.
Where countries claim property rights over cetaceans, such as in the dolphin hunts in Japan, we see massively unsustainable hunts, which have increased in cruelty as populations have decreased.
Countries such as China and South Korea have all indicated that they would start whaling if quotas were allocated.
So, we would see many more countries applying for quotas and countries like Japan would not hesitate to ‘lend’ hunting equipment and expertise to allow for such growth in artificial ‘demand’.”
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Read the full article in Nature