Sunday, September 21, 2014

175.3 - Update: whaling

Update: whaling

After that, we have an Update which I was going to say was to lighten things a bit, but actually it doesn't do any such thing.

Last week, I offered the Good News that the population of California blue whales had, due to conservation efforts, recovered to nearly its historical, 19th-century levels.

The Update here is the reminder that they are not the only sorts of whales out there and that various types are still hunted for commercial profit.

The two biggest whaling nations in the world are Japan and, sadly, Iceland, sadly because Iceland is one of my favorite countries and having the chance to go there is probably the biggest item on my bucket list.

Japan annually kills over a thousand whales in the Antarctic: minkes, humpbacks, and fins. It uses a loophole in the 1986 international ban on commercial whaling which allows for taking of whales for "scientific research." Japan simply declares that it alone gets to decide what constitutes such research for the whaling permits it issues, even though that "research" has for some time consisted of simply counting the numbers and types of fish in the stomachs of the whales that are killed - after which, it's "hey we have all this whale meat, no point in just throwing it away, and hey, what a coincidence, whale meat is a popular dish in Japan, so let's sell it there!"

After years of protest, that argument came crashing down in March when in response to a suit by Australia, the International Court of Justice ruled that Japan's "scientific" whaling was not scientific.

Now, Australia and New Zealand are taking the lead at the current meeting of the IWC, the International Whaling Commission, to press that body to incorporate the court's judgment into the actual policies and practices of the Commission. New Zealand has put forth a resolution which would restrict the ability of governments which are members of the Commission to issue permits for "scientific" whaling until those permits undergo a full review by the IWC itself.

Japan says it will establish a "highly transparent" process of scientific review as it goes back to whaling in the summer of 2015-16 (which will be the winter of 2015-16 for us here in the Northern Hemisphere) but it opposes any IWC review of permits. In other words, Japan proposed to keep on doing just what it has been doing. In fact, a lobbyist for Japan told the Australian paper the Sydney Morning Herald that the New Zealand resolution will probably pass - but that Japan will simply ignore it.

Meanwhile, Iceland, which has openly resumed commercial whaling, has received a sharply worded complaint from the European Union, the US, and other nations including Brazil, Mexico, and Australia. Like Japan, Iceland claims its killing of whales has a scientific basis; unlike Japan, it doesn't pretend that science rather than making money is the purpose. But again like Japan, Iceland says it will simply ignore the protest.

The diplomatic note does not threaten government sanctions against Iceland, but does note that
public opinion in the countries that are Iceland's main trading partners is very much against the practice of whaling
and that if Iceland does not stop whaling, international boycotts of Icelandic products could damage the nation's economy.

Yeah. From their mouths to your ears - to your wallets.

Sources cited in links:

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