Japan’s hopes of overturning the 32-year-old ban on commercial whale hunting by changing current international regulations have been defeated following a vote at the International Whaling Commission (the body that regulates whale hunting) in Brazil today.
Japan’s proposal had been seen as one of the most dangerous threats to the ban on whaling and the future of whales for many years, bringing back large scale whaling and ending one of the biggest successes in conservation history.
“The defeat of this proposal is a heartening sign that many nations today acknowledge that whales need to be protected, not killed”, commented Astrid Fuchs, programme lead at WDC. “However this is surely not the last we´ve heard on the matter from Japan. They will no doubt try and overturn the ban in the coming years. The big support they managed to muster in this vote is frightening and we definitely have our work cut out for us. What we must do now is close the remaining loopholes and ensure countries like Iceland, Norway and Japan stop their commercial whaling activities for good”.
Japan currently avoids the ban by claiming to hunt whales for ‘scientific’ purposes and argues that some whale populations are numerous enough for commercial hunts to begin again. However, today some populations have partly recovered but many are still far away from their pre-whaling numbers and some populations might even never recover.
The proposal recommended the creation of a “Sustainable Whaling Committee (SWC)” at the meeting that would then set number quotas for whales that can once again be killed to make commercial profits. Japan also wanted to make it possible for decisions at IWC to be made by a simple majority vote (instead of the current three-quarter majority vote) so that it might be easier to pass new regulations like the allocation of new limits for numbers of whales that can be killed.
In addition, much of the meat from whales killed for this Japanese ‘scientific research’ ends up on sale and the science condemned by scientists, governments and the International Court of Justice (ICJ) , which ruled that Japan’s Antarctic whaling programme in the Southern Ocean had failed to yield any meaningful scientific results.
WDC has once again been at the meeting advising governments on the dangers of this proposal, and seek to ensure that the regulations are not loosened but tightened.
As a counter to the proposal by Japan, Brazil rallied anti-whaling nations behind it’s “Florianopolis Declaration,” which was voted through at the meeting yesterday and states that commercial whaling is no longer a necessary economic activity, and that growing the whale watching industry is the way forward.
Other key issues that were discussed in the week-long meeting were risks to whales of human-made underwater noise pollution, ship strikes, climate change and fishing gear entanglement.