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One small step

August 2009

There is a glimmer of hope that the International Whaling Commission (IWC) may be moving towards a more conservation role.

At the IWC meeting in June the UK government reinforced its strong commitment to conservation and opposition to whaling.  

The Australian Environment Minister Peter Garrett, put forward ambitious plans to demonstrate the value of non-lethal methods for tracking and researching whales.  This was unanimously agreed by the IWC.  Unlike the Japanese scheme, which has killed whales under the guise of scientific research, the Australian project will rely only on taking DNA-containing biopsies from live whales, photographic identification of whales and acoustic tracking using hydrophones from the same region.

After strong representations by the UK government, the IWC also decided to reject a proposal which would have allowed Greenland to kill 10 humpback whales annually from 2009-2012. A decision to allow Japan to resume commercial whaling in its own costal waters has been delayed until next year.

A few years ago I visited Iceland and talked at length to try and dissuade them from continuing with whale hunting.  Unfortunately the only concern they had at the time was about a boycott of their fish products if they continued.  Hopefully the pro-whaling countries will realise sooner rather than later that conservation is the way forward.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) presented a report at the meeting which shows that whale watching is far more lucrative that whaling itself.  Last year 13 million tourists viewed whales in 119 countries and the whaling operators employed 13,200 people to manage the tours.  The director of the IFAW said “The best science is done by observing live whales in the marine environment, not figuring out how many you can sustainably kill”.