gCaptain and others have chronicled the ongoing Whaling – Conservation controversy between environmental groups and Japanese whalers. The Independent/UK is reporting that secret plans are underway to allow Japan to continue whaling. Here’s an excerpt:

The plans would permit the world’s main whaling nation to carry out a limited hunt in waters close to its shores. In return, Japan would have to stop exploiting a loophole in international law, through which it kills hundreds of whales around Antarctica each year under the guise of “scientific research”.

The plans – drawn up at another unpublicised meeting in Tokyo last month – were presented by the governments of Argentina and the Netherlands to a closed three-day session of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) at the Renaissance Hotel near Heathrow airport, which ended yesterday (March 8, 2008.)

The compromise aims to end decades of deadlock by allowing this coastal hunt while stopping “scientific whaling”. Proponents argue this would sharply reduce the slaughter, while allowing Japan to claim victory. Opponents say it would be unenforceable and fail to provide a lasting solution.

The full Independent/UK story is here.

Background

The International Whaling Commission (IWC) was set up under the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling which was signed in Washington DC on 2nd December 1946 (Click HERE to view full text). The purpose of the Convention is to provide for the proper conservation of whale stocks and thus make possible the orderly development of the whaling industry.

Membership of the IWC is open to any country in the world that formally adheres to the 1946 Convention. Each member country is represented by a Commissioner, who is assisted by experts and advisers. The Chair and Vice-Chair are elected from among the Commissioners and usually serve for three years. Click HERE to view the full Membership list or click HERE to download a PDF of the Status of the Convention, which details all current members, past members and country-specific notes. The present Chair is Dr. William Hogarth from the USA and the Vice-Chair is Mr. Minoru Morimoto from Japan.

Scientific Permits

A major area of discussion in recent years has been the issuing of permits by member states for the killing of whales for scientific purposes. The use of such permits is not new. The right to issue them is enshrined in Article VIII of the 1946 Convention. Whilst member nations must submit proposals for review, in accordance with the Convention, it is the member nation that ultimately decides whether or not to issue a permit, and this right overrides any other Commission regulations including the moratorium and sanctuaries. Article VIII also requires that the animals be utilised once the scientific data have been collected.

Research

At the 2000 Annual Meeting, the Government of Japan submitted an extensive new proposal entitled ‘Research Plan For Cetacean Studies In The Western North Pacific Under Special Permit (JARPN II) – Feasibility Study Plan For 2000 And 2001′. It was envisioned that 100 common minke whales, 50 Bryde’s whales and 10 sperm whales would be sampled in each year. The stated goal of the programme was to obtain information to contribute to the conservation and sustainable use of marine living resources (including whales) in the western North Pacific. It includes sub-projects on:

  1. feeding ecology (including prey consumption and preferences of cetaceans and ecosystem modelling);
  2. stock structure;
  3. environmental effects on cetaceans and the marine ecosystem.

In 2002, after completion of the feasibility study, Japan put forward a proposal for a full long-term research programme primarily aimed at feeding ecology in the context of contributing to the ‘conservation and sustainable use of marine living resources in the western North Pacific, especially within Japan’s Exclusive Economic Zone’ The 2005 programme proposes the taking of 220 minke whales, 50 Bryde’s whales, 100 sei whales and 10 sperm whales in the western North Pacific.

The most recent population estimate for common minke whales in the western North Pacific and Okhotsk Sea is about 25,000 (95% CI 12,800- 48,600). A preliminary estimate of abundance for western North Pacific Bryde’s whales is about 22,000 (95% CI 15,000 – 32,600). There are no IWC agreed abundance estimates for North Pacific sei or sperm whales.

The report of the Committee’s discussions of first the feasibility study and second the full programme (available from the IWC office) were published in the supplements to the Journal of Cetacean Research and Management in June 2001 and April 2003. There was considerable disagreement within the Committee over most aspects of this research programme, including objectives, methodology, likelihood of success and effect on stocks. (Click HERE for more details on these discussions).

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This post was written by Richard Rodriguez, Rescue Tug Captain, and US Coast Guard approved instructor for License Training. You can read more of his articles at the BitterEnd of the net.

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