Japan’s package of proposals seeking to upend the 33-year global commercial whaling moratorium was soundly rejected last week at the International Whaling Commission meeting in Florianopolis, Brazil, with more than 40 countries making it clear to the rogue nation, which continues whaling in defiance of the ban, that killing whales for profit is simply not okay.
The IWC also passed key resolutions addressing the need to reduce noise pollution for whales caused by shipping, drilling and exploring for oil and gas, and preventing whale entanglements in lost fishing gear. A third resolution that was approved acknowledged the crucial role whales play as “ecosystem engineers,” helping to cycle ocean nutrients and maintain healthy ecosystems.
The majority of member nations at the IWC sent out a clear message that conservation, not killing whales, is the need of the hour. On Thursday, they approved, with a vote of 40 to 27, the “Florianopolis Declaration” advanced by Brazil, a non-binding resolution stating that commercial whaling is no longer a necessary economic activity and that killing whales for research is not valid. The declaration provided some consolation to whale-friendly nations after a longstanding proposal from Brazil and its Atlantic neighbors for a whale sanctuary in the South Atlantic was defeated earlier in the meeting.
Australia was the clear leader for like-minded nations opposed to commercial whaling. Its commissioner, Nick Gales, pointed out that there is diminishing demand for the products of whaling, and countered Japan’s key narrative — that the IWC is broken – with his remarks that “disagreement does not mean dysfunction.”
Another significant victory for our Humane Society International delegation, which was at the meeting this week, was strong support, including financial pledges, for the IWC’s new Bycatch Mitigation Initiative. Each year around the world, hundreds of thousands of whales, dolphins and porpoises are caught and drowned in fishing nets, causing immense suffering and threatening several species and populations with extinction, and the new initiative will address solutions to this problem that poses a massive threat to cetaceans worldwide.
I want to commend our HSI team members who attended the meeting, including experts in whale science, policy and law. It was a busy week for them as they advised governments on both a formal and informal basis, made interventions on such critical topics as whale killing methods used in aboriginal subsistence hunts and in the whaling programs of Iceland, Japan and Norway, supported key resolutions in joint statements with other non-governmental organizations, made contributions to key IWC voluntary funds that benefit whales, and generated substantial media coverage worldwide before, during and after the meeting.
A good part of the credit for helping stop Japan’s plans to resume whaling goes to you: more than 100,000 citizens worldwide signed our HSI pledge in defense of the moratorium. If you were one of them, thank you.
Every IWC meeting in recent years has featured one or more threats to the global ban on commercial whaling, but none so blatant as this year’s attempt by Japan and its voting bloc allies. And however difficult, holding the line on the moratorium remains an essential part of our strategy to defend whales from other threats. With this latest meeting in Brazil, we have succeeded in buying more time and more protection for whales, and you can rest assured we will keep up the fight.