Friday, April 23rd 2010 - 06:40 UTC

Whaling Commission unveils compromise proposal which includes Japan

The International Whaling Commission unveiled Thursday a draft proposal to bring all whaling operations under its full control and to strengthen and focus the work of the IWC on conservation issues including a compromise proposal which will cut Japan's annual Antarctic quota by three-quarters in five years.

Cristian Maquieira, Chair of the International Whaling Commission

The 88 member governments of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) will have 60 days to review the plan before discussing it at their annual meeting in June where it could be changed or adopted. If adopted, the proposal for a 10-year peace plan keeps the moratorium on commercial whaling.

Importantly, the three countries that at present set their own catch limits (Japan, Norway, Iceland) will have agreed to IWC-set sustainable catch limits that are substantially below present levels as well as to a rigorous oversight and enforcement arrangement.

As proposed, several thousand less whales will be caught over the ten-year period than would have occurred if the present situation remained.

“If an agreement is reached this represents a great step forward in terms of the conservation of whales and the management of whaling. We are not there yet and much remains to be done but we truly wish this to be a consensus decision. It will be a major achievement if, despite some fundamental differences of views on whaling, our member countries can put these differences aside for a period to focus on ensuring the world has healthy whale stocks,” said Cristian Maquieira, Chair of the International Whaling Commission.

“For the first time since the adoption of the commercial whaling moratorium, we will have strict, enforceable limits on all whaling operations. As a result, several thousand less whales will be killed over the period of the agreement. In addition, no other IWC countries will be permitted to start hunting whales during the period”, he added.

“This proposal represents an historic step, a paradigm shift in how the Commission would operate,” said IWC Vice-Chair Anthony Liverpool.

“Rather than the mistrust and confrontation that have led to little progress, we now have the opportunity to reconcile our differences and so strengthen actions related to our shared goal of maintaining healthy whale populations and recovering depleted stocks.

This consensus decision would represent a delicate balance of accommodations by all IWC members and establish a 10-year period of stability during which we can work to resolve our major long-term issues. We could put the focus where it belongs—on improving the conservation of whales and the management whaling”.

But some conservation and animal welfare groups have already indicated opposition. “The fact that this proposal is even being discussed shows just how far out of touch the IWC is with modern values,” said Claire Bass, manager of the Marine Mammal Programme at the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA).

“It is entirely missing the point that blasting conscious animals with exploding harpoons is grossly inhumane”.

The initial reaction from the New Zealand Government was also negative arguing the cuts don't go far enough.

The NZ government says the proposal is not acceptable as the numbers of whales actually caught already fall short of the quota, meaning there will be no real reduction in whales killed. Greenpeace also says the IWC proposal is unacceptable.

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