Commercial whaling likely to win out

The Guardian

London, June 20:

Anti-whaling nations are arguing against a return to commercial whaling amid fears that the mood is swinging back in favour of hunting the marine mammals 20 years after the practice was stopped. Legal loopholes mean that more whales will be killed this year than at any time since 1985 and pro-whaling nations are hoping for the first time to have a majority in favour of resuming the hunting when the International Whaling Commission (IWC) meets this morning. Britain, along with the United States, New Zealand and Australia, has fought hard for 20 years to prevent the resumption of whaling, but the hunters — Japan, aided by Norway and Iceland — have been recruiting a large number of small nations to their cause. 14 of the 62 members of the commission are small developing countries which receive aid from Japan and vote the same way as their benefactor on the majority of issues. As a result the balance of power in the IWC has swung to the pro-whalers and this year pressure to allocate quotas for “harvesting’’ whales will be intense. Using loopholes in the IWC rules which permit

“scientific’’ whaling’’ to assess stocks, the Japanese will kill an estimated 1,315 whales this year for sale in restaurants.

The Norwegians, using a different rule made possible because of their objection to the original moratorium on commercial whaling in 1985, are expected to harvest 797, and Iceland 25. South Korea, which has switched sides more than once in the whaling votes and is hosting this year’s meeting, has just scrapped plans to build a whalemeat factory. Although the country does not officially hunt whales, there are a number of whalemeat restaurants within a few hundred yards of where delegates will be meeting in the city of Ulsan. Andy Ottaway, from Campaign Whale, an anti-whaling organisation based in England, said, “It is ironic that I can come here and see people openly selling and eating whale meat, in the host country of this year’s meeting, when they are not supposed to catch any whales.” “The fact that such illegal trade goes on under the very noses of the commission is ludicrous and demonstrates that the ban on whaling, or rules for its resumption, are absolutely meaningless

without proper enforcement.’’

The anti-whaling nations have been able to resist continued whaling on the grounds that it is not humane, and that large animals can take many minutes to die. They have been insisting that more humane methods be adopted. Whalewatch, a coalition of more than 140 non-governmental organisations in more than 55 countries, is calling for an end to “scientific’’ whaling. Laila Sadler, scientific officer, said, “It is a means of sneaking dead whales in by the back door.’’ Major General Peter Davies, director general of the World Society for the Protection of Animals, said, “Any deal on whaling would be a backward step for animal welfare. We are in grave danger of seeing a system adopted that would sanction the cruel killing of whales.’’ There is also a continuing row about how many whales there actually are. Even with modern technology, counting them is extremely difficult.