Tuesday, March 2, 2010
The International Whaling Commission proposes to legalize commercial whaling - in order to reduce illegal whaling.
Despite a 1986 international ban on for-profit whale hunting, which left open a loophole for scientific whaling, Iceland, Norway and Japan have kept at it in relatively plain view. All three countries are IWC members.
The IWC's draft plan, released last week, proposes to legalize whaling in exchange for hunting caps and other restrictions. The idea is to create an enforcement framework to actually reduce the number of whales currently killed, but groups including the International Fund for Animal Welfare have called it a major step backward for whale conservation. The proposal comes after years of lobbying by Japan to lift the ban.
Local photographer and anti-whaling activist Bryant Austin of Marine Mammal Conservation Through the Arts offers his thoughts on the issue:
"Whaling represents a profound disconnect into our perception and definition of intelligent life on earth. The decision-makers at these conferences in favor to resume commercial whaling have most likely had no experience being with a wild cetacean in the water and on their terms. I personally have floated eye to eye with the largest toothed carnivore on the planet, the sperm whale, whose brain is seven times the size of our own and has been in existence for 20 million years…
"And now we casually decide their fate in the context of commercial whaling. Whales may very go extinct in this century, as the issues they face are far more severe and out of our control than whaling. To end whaling is by far the easiest and most in our control issue to achieve."
IWC members will consider the draft proposal at its meeting in St. Pete Beach, Fla., beginning today. A full IWC vote is expected in June.