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David @ Tokyo

Perspective from Japan on whaling and whale meat, a spot of gourmet news, and monthly updates of whale meat stockpile statistics



IWC Secretariat on Iceland issue

The IWC Secretariat has posted a fantastic summary of factual information regarding the recent news about Iceland.

The page details the background behind Iceland's reservation to the commercial moratorium, present status of RMS discussions, the IUCN "endangered" classification, and confirmation that indeed there are recently agreed estimates for the Fin Whale in the North Atlantic, a fact which New Zealand's conservation minister refuted, as I noted previously (just on that point, I heard from Chris Carter's secretary, and apparently a response to me is being prepared.)

Also, a note at the bottom of the IWC page reminds us that:
the Scientific Committee’s work on implementing the RMP would only allow it to make recommendations on safe removal limits for some stocks of common minke whale (in the North Atlantic and North Pacific). It is in the process of completing work on western North Pacific Bryde’s whales (*David: see note at bottom of page) and it will begin the final two years of work on North Atlantic fin whales next year.
Given that the IWC Scientific Committee will be able to provide advice within the next couple of years on Fin whale quotas in the North Atlantic, I assume that the Icelandic government will hold off on increasing quotas substantially before that time (Iceland's IWC representatives took great interest in this at this year's IWC plenary on Day 2). Once the implementation work is completed however, there is little reason to believe that Iceland would not issues permits up to the limits advised as sustainable by the IWC Scientific Committee.

This then raises a question: Does it even matter if the moratorium on commercial whaling is never overturned?

Iceland will almost certainly issue permits, regardless of the politics at the IWC, and they will have plenty of scientific backing for their actions, even if there is not 75% political support.

Again, the situation is that whaling nations are going to hunt whales, whether the anti-whaling nations like it or not. The anti-whaling nations have nothing to gain by maintaining the status quo. They must now accept the reality of the situation, and compromise on a practical RMS to regulate whaling to ensure the proper conservation of whale resources is not left to individual nations to police by themselves.

On the other hand, by maintaining the current situation, Japan remains unable to resume commercial whaling, as it no longer has a valid objection to the moratorium. Given that Japan has always been the main focus of anti-whaling attention, the anti-whaling politicians may decide that it is in their interests to simply depict Iceland and Norway as rogues (while running the risk that they do go and set unsustainable catch-limits), but at least prevent Japan from a commercial whaling resumption in Antarctic and North Pacific waters. Overall, the current situation with only scientific whaling still sees significantly lower numbers of whales being killed than under a scenario where the IWC actually implemented the RMP for various stocks.

Yet another scenario might see Japan repeat Iceland's move of temporarily withdrawing from the IWC, and then returning with a reservation to the unnecessary commercial whaling moratorium. Now that would cause a big kafuffle!

UPDATE: Some additional information from nature.com:
There are estimated to be 25,000 fin whales in the North Atlantic, which is thought to be more than 70% of the pre-exploitation level, says Vikingsson. "You can't say that there is a danger of extinction," he says — not in the North Atlantic.

The minke whale is classified as 'near threatened'. Vikingsson says the Icelandic population is thought to be at 90% pre-exploitation levels.
I haven't seen official IWC endorsed estimates of pre-whaling abundance of these stocks in the Icelandic region, but given that the figures of current abundance that they reported have been clearly endorsed on the IWC's homepage, I will assume that they are correct on this point as well.

* * *

(*) Information on the first workshop for the North Pacific Bryde's whale implementation can be found in this report. Worth reading if you are interested in the process the Scientific Committee goes through to produce advice on catch quotas. The completion of this particular work will serve as yet more scientific ammunition for the Japanese delegation at next year's IWC meeting.

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Always interesting to read the greenpeace forum on the issue. Specially the last reply on the page about the letter from the Icelandic Embassy in UK.
Very interesting forum!

One of the Iceland guys summed up the reasons for resuming commercial whaling very well.

This NAMMCO document on minke whales in the North Altantic also indicates that there is information that minke whales do eat some quantity of fish that is valuable to humans:

The Greenpeace people on the forum seem to have the idea that the argument is that increasing whale stocks will drive fish to extinction. I don't think that is quite the point - Iceland people stand to benefit financially from both fish and whale meat sales. Turning off the whale meat tap reduces that source of food and revenue, and potentially reduces the food and revenue available from fisheries as well.

In light of such information it's easy to understands Iceland's motives in permitting commercial whaling.
I think that Icelanders have the arguement of fish stocks in the back of their mind, but while that can't be proven then that can't be the main goal behind the whaling. Especially when it is on such a small scale, it doesn't matter.

If you read the letter from the embassies that is on the forum somewhere they don't mention anymore this arguement, mostly because they know they can't say it anymore.

I also had one post there just to get their view on things! :)

By the way, i pointed the IWC statement to mbl.is, the biggest online news agency, and they hadn't seen it before so I'm hopefully seing something happening there soon... :)
Iceland sees no tourism threat in whaling
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