Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Legal commercial whaling plan shelved at IWC: moratorium remains in effect

The world of marine conservation has been somewhat divided concerning the IWC's compromise proposal to allow a controlled return to commercial whaling, under consideration at this year's meetings in Agadir, Morocco.

The Whale Like Me team feels legalizing commercial whaling, regardless of promises that strict quotas would be enforced, is a very dangerous path to head down. How many other nations would have stepped up to join the whaling industry, upon seeing that Japan, Norway and Iceland were allowed to do so legally?

The proposal claims no new nation would be allowed to start whaling, but it is not so hard for countries to simply opt out of the IWC to pursue their own agendas when need be. Any assurances that legalized whaling won't psychologically legitimize whaling activity from new players... ring hollow.

How would we enforce quotas effectively when it has proven impossible to do so in other areas of marine resource management?

And the saddest question of all: how should we be expected to trust Japan’s fisheries to respect the quotas given the ample evidence of corrupt proceedings surrounding the treatment of the Tokyo 2, and the bribing of developing IWC member nations?

So in this respect, we feel this is a very positive development. In the words of Patrick Ramage, director of the International Fund for Animal Welfare's Global Whale Campaign:

"Had it been done here, this deal would have lived in infamy. This was an intense three year effort but one conducted behind closed doors and focused on defining terms under which commercial whaling would continue rather than how it would end. The proposal it produced could not withstand public scrutiny and ignored the overwhelming global support for permanent protection for whales. Any future process of negotiation should not leave the views, expertise, and perspective of the global NGO community sitting outside."

Full article here.

It appears however that the IWC might simply postpone voting on a return to commercial whaling until next year, allowing the uproar surrounding the Japanese corruption scandals to diminish. So vigilance remains important. We will probably face the same danger just one year from now, and if we have forgotten the reasons why the proposal is flawed, our national delegates to the IWC will not necessarily remember it for us. We are their conscience.

The production of Whale Like Me retains the same goal as ever: to promote reconciliation with Japan through open exploration of our different ways of relating to cetaceans. The corruption problems unfairly taint an entire nation in the eyes of the world. Whale Like Me will show that they originate and are enabled by a small group of people. The Japanese people and the whalers themselves are not all to be held responsible for the policies of small factions within their government.

Likewise, despite the dismay the world is experiencing surrounding the exposed corruption, it is our conviction that the basic desire of anti-whaling nations is still to explore common ground and overcome the corruption together. Whale Like Me’s overall message of friendship between ‘opposing sides’ has become all the more urgent, if hope of such reconciliation and cooperation is to survive.

And of course, direct experience of cetaceans remains our focus: we believe nobody can hold a fully informed opinion on whaling without some experience of what it is like to meet cetaceans at close quarters, without any other agenda than the experience itself. Our exploration of the ramifications of such encounters remains the Rosetta's stone without which 'opposing sides' will eternally find understanding each other almost impossible.


  1. Hi,

    I found this blog while reading an article about your film.
    I must say I am very curious about what the film will be like. I also think establishing a dialogue between people opposing whaling and whalers is probably the better (and probably only) way to understand each other.

    However, I believe that there's nothing wrong in whaling. I don't believe that whales are "intelligent", or should I say more or less intelligent than any other animal. Intelligence is a very complex concept, in my opinion. Is intelligence the same for every living beings?

    There are many ways to interact with nature, animals, and in this case whales. Whaling is one. Whale watching is another.
    If people against and for whaling can understand each other, then so be it. But do they really need to agree on what should be the way to interact "properly" with whales? I really doubt it. We can coexist with whales through whaling or whale watching.

    The world is full of diversity, and so is the cultures of humans. What may be unthinkable for the people of one culture, may be perfectly normal with others, without anyone being wrong.
    We all have different perceptions of our environment, and so be it.

    The IWC is an international body that was created to manage whaling (note that the founding convention doesn't make any distinction between commercial or aboriginal whaling). It hasn't been successful in the first decades of its mandate, yet scientific knowledge on cetaceans and tools to manage whaling have greatly evolved since these times.

    Is "legalizing" (Norway and Iceland are both whaling commercially and legally) commercial whaling such a problem?
    The actual situation, in which whaling still occurs without the IWC being able to control anything, is probably no better than legalizing whaling and having it properly under IWC's control.

    Would many other countries join whaling? I doubt it. The main market for whale products is Japan and it's limited. Probably South Korea would ask for a coastal quota, but that's certainly all, and the deal that was put on the table in Agadir wouldn't have allowed them to get any quota.

    Whaling can be managed sustainably. That would give whaling people what they want while conserving whale populations, which would allow people who like to watch/swim with whales to do so. I don't see any losers in that.

  2. Thank you for your thoughtful and well-expressed comment, Isanatori.

    I would love to respond in detail, however your incisive reflections touch on the heart of our film's subject matter, and we would like to keep some of this sort exchange for the film itself!

    Rest-assured that the views you express here are well-represented in our film - and I hope you will find the response to them interesting and challenging!