Whaling Print
Written by Andrew Stevenson   
Wednesday, 19 March 2008 19:23

By the late 1940s international whaling had decimated the world's whale populations. On December 2nd 1946 the International Whaling Commission (IWC) was set up under the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling in Washington DC. It is famous for implementing an international moratorium on all commercial whaling. Over recent decades, the IWC has taken some encouraging steps in changing its emphasis from governing the whaling industry towards conserving and studying whales. However, despite the international moratorium, the nations of Japan, Norway and Iceland carry on whaling. All 3 countries are exploiting loopholes in the Whaling Convention in order to kill nearly 2000 whales each year.
Norway hunts whales under its objection to the moratorium, Japan has been whaling under the guise of "scientific research" and Iceland resumed commercial whaling, taking fin and minke whales, this year.

There are currently 73 countries who are members of the IWC. The current membership is approximately evenly divided between whaling and non-whaling nations, resulting in a political deadlock which makes it impossible to secure the ¾ majority of votes needed to make major changes. What that basically means is whaling continues and is increasing yearly without any international control. Whilst the debate has raged over how best to manage commercial whaling, emerging threats to the future of whale, dolphin and porpoise populations have also begun to be addressed by the IWC.

The IWC needs to address all of the threats to cetacean populations, particularly that of bycatch and climate change. Over 300,000 whales and dolphins are caught and killed in fishing nets each year. Bycatch, like whaling, removes animals permanently from the wild population.

Both require international action.

For some populations, bycatch has replaced whaling as the biggest cause of mortality. Climate change may also impact the areas of the oceans in which whales live, and affect migration patterns. Climate change, depletion of the ozone layer and the related rise in UV radiation may also lead to a fall in the population of krill, a primary food source for many marine species. Pollution of our oceans is also taking a deadly toll on whales and dolphins. Discarded drift nets, and fishing lines. lobster pot lines continue to entangle whales with deadly results every year.