This is not new. Whalers in particular have noted for years that pollution is a concern for whale populations, and the IWC's Head of Science, Greg Donovan told the BBC recently that "The greatest threats to them now are bycatches in fishing gear, collisions with ships and potential damage to their habitat." Not whaling.
Researchers at the University of Tasmania are looking at the global whaling debate, the role of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) and Australia's policy position.
Researcher Mike Iliffe says commercial whaling issues are dominating the IWC at the expense of the real threats to the mammals.
"We really have to tackle global warming and pollution to a lesser extent," he said.
"Pollution may be killing 10 to 20 times as many whales as the Japanese, the Icelandics, the Norwegians and the aboriginal whalers together are killing right now."
Dr Julia Jabour says the polarisation of the pro-whaling and anti-whaling groups is making the commission dysfunctional.
"The debate has been impoverished because of an excess of emotion over rational argument," she said.
"When you listen to some of the arguments that the anti-whaling countries put forward they are based on cultural or moral high ground and I would suggest that that's pretty shaky ground to be on."
IAN CAMPBELL: I haven't heard anything more outlandish, and I think they their opinions would be offside with 99-plus per cent of the Australian population.Settle down, Ian. No need to go shooting the messengers. Here's Mike Iliffe again:
MIKE ILIFFE: I think there needs to be an agreement on what are the real issues, and if the IWC could just focus on things like global warming, pollution of the oceans, netting, underwater noise and so on, that really are threatening whale populations, then maybe we could put the hunting issue aside as being irrelevant or insignificant in the overall scheme of things in a sustainability sense. Then they could get on with dealing with the real issues.Ian wasn't listening, apparently, running off on an unrelated tangent:
IAN CAMPBELL: There is no humane way to kill a whale. The latest research by Tasmanian scientists at the Australian Government's Antarctic Division shows that the average time to death in the Minke whale hunt this year was upwards of twelve minutes. That's an animal suffocating and drowning, often in its own blood, for in excess of ten minutes. Any scientist who supports that shouldn't be in the business.Yadda yadda yadda, leaving Ian's dubious time-to-death figures aside, the researchers are not stating support for whaling one way or another - they're just pointing out the greatest threats to the conservation of whale species today which, as these researchers and IWC scientists say, realistically does not include whaling.
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