Editorial: Whaling - stick to the path towards sustainable use
On the 18th, at the annual assembley of the International Whaling Commission (IWC), a declaration proposed by Japan and others supporting the resumption of commercial whaling was adopted with a one vote majority. It was the first resolution of toleration and support for whaling to pass since the temporary cessation ("moratorium") of commercial whaling was decided upon in 1982.
At the IWC, decisions on substantive matters require agreement from more than three quarters, so this declaration will not directly lead to a resumption in commercial whaling. However, whaling supporters having outnumbered anti-whalers for the first time in a quarter of a century can be seen as a sign that the current is shifting.
This declaration, adopted at the IWC meeting being held in the Caribbean island nation of St. Christopher and Nevis that is home to 50,000 people, may mark a watershed in the history of the dysfunctional IWC, or may otherwise be a destabilizing factor that pushes the organization deeper into disarray.
In 1982, a large number of anti-whaling nations newly joined the organization, and the temporary cessation in commercial whaling was imposed. Ever since, Japan has tirelessly countered anti-whaling arguments of little scientific foundation, such as those expoused by extreme environmental groups, at the IWC. This matter of the preservation and sustainable use of the marine ecosystem is an issue effecting the future of humanity.
As a result, the IWC's Scientific Committee unanimously decided upon a scientific catch limit setting method, the Revised Management Procedure (RMP), which would enable sustainable use without the depletion of resources. If a system to monitor and enforce this, a Revised Management Scheme (RMS), can be agreed upon, the moratorium will no longer be necessary.
Scientific research has made it clear that amongst whale species, some such as the Minke, Fin, Sei, and Sperm whales have recovered to the point where there are more than enough. Additionally, it is estimated that marine resources equivalent to the amount of annual human fisheries ends up in whales' stomachs each year. Now, even the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF) is ready to tolerate whaling under strict resource management.
Nonetheless, with scientific data, systems, and infrastructure all in place for a resumption of commercial whaling, leaders of anti-whaling nations have had the following to say: "No matter how much whale numbers increase, we won't allow a single one to be taken". And at the February RMS conference, "We won't participate in any discussion for a system supporting commercial whaling".
The Government of Japan has indicated that if things continue to go nowhere at the IWC, it is poised to hold a seperate international meeting with other nations of the pro-whaling faction. Anti-whaling nations enraged at the declaration such as England, the USA and New Zealand, will take a tougher line towards any such meetings.
The meetings of the past quarter of a century must not be put to waste. Further efforts to break down cultural intolerance, and restraint to preserve the IWC negotiating table is desirable.
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