The big news on whaling in 2014 was the ruling by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) declaring Japan’s hunt in the southern hemisphere is at odds with international rules. As a consequence, for the first time in more than 100 years, there was no whaling in the Southern Ocean since the ICJ ruling on March 31st. We knew that while Japan said it would honor the ruling, it was looking to interpret it narrowly and to find a way – at the International Whaling Commission (IWC) meeting that just ended today in Portorož, Slovenia – to gain some authorization to resume some whale killing.
Today, Japan’s maneuvers were thwarted, as IWC 65 closed out with a hard-earned “yes” on New Zealand’s resolution codifying the ICJ’s ruling that scientific whaling must be held to a far higher standard of review and necessity. Together with the defeat of Japan’s proposal for coastal commercial whaling, the adoption of the ICJ resolution fortifies the global commercial whaling moratorium. Humane Society International’s team at Portorož pursued this agenda with single-minded purpose.
The New Zealand resolution, intensely discussed all week, incorporated key elements of the International Court of Justice’s March 2014 ruling on Japan’s whaling. It sought to clarify the process by which proposals for scientific whaling should be evaluated by the IWC and its scientific committee. The resolution incorporated the guidelines set down by the ICJ on such points as whether a particular plan for lethal research is necessary, and whether the number of whales killed was justified by the program's objectives.
There was other good news this week, with the passing of resolutions from Monaco and from Chile, seeking additional protections for small cetaceans and transparency within the IWC, respectively. The United Kingdom also made great progress in advancing its strong whale welfare agenda.
One bad outcome was the swift approval on Monday of an expanded whaling quota for Greenland, amounting to 207 whales per year — 176 minke, 19 fin, 10 humpback, and two bowhead whales — for the next four years. Many observers have noted the increasingly commercial dimensions of Greenlandic hunting, and whale friendly nations and non-governmental organizations lobbied hard to persuade the IWC to deny the quota as it did two years ago in Panama.
Another disappointing outcome was the vote against the South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary, which, despite increased support, was once again a victim of the political spite of Iceland, Japan and Norway, the world’s remaining most-vociferous pro-whaling nations. This vote, perhaps more than any other, revealed the true fault line that separates a few nations from the rest of the world when it comes to this issue. Most members of the community of nations — like their billions of citizens – want to see whales safe, sound and protected in marine sanctuaries, while these outliers want to keep an archaic, cruel and unnecessary trade alive. We’re determined to stop them, and it’s clear to me that the winds and tides of history are moving in our direction and in the direction of the whales.