Saving the Whales

The New Scientist, 21 June 2003, ran an editorial that posed the question "Is the International Whaling commission a spent force?"

It rather looked like it. New Scientist pointed out that after almost two decades of policing an increasingly fragile moratorium on whaling, the Commission had redefined itself as an organisation dedicated to conserving whales rather than regulating the whaling industry.

Because of this whaling nations may pull out and form their own organization At its annual meeting in Berlin in June 2003 the International Whaling Commission (IWC) agreed by a vote of 25 to 20, with one abstention, to adopt a controversial proposal from anti-whaling nations that will change its very nature.

When the IWC was set up in 1946 it was to regulate the hunting of whales. Now it is a body in control of all conservation issues relating to whales and dolphins.

Before the decision, plans had been in hand to produce a contentious Revised Management Scheme for re starting commercial whaling. Norway, Iceland and Japan are keen to hunt under this scheme. is not clear how pro-whaling nations such as Japan will react to the approved changes in IWC.

Before the meeting, the Japanese representative Masayuki Komatsu warned that if the proposal was accepted Japan may quit the IWC and form an organisation with other pro-whaling nations to manage whale hunts at a sustainable level.

Since the IWC placed a moratorium on commercial whaling in 1986, Japan has legally regularly caught up to 400 Minke whales a year in the name of science. Norway also legally hunts whales as part of its scientificprogramme.

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