Animal activists and the Obama Administration may soon be in the middle of their own personal “Whale Wars” if the government continues to endorse a proposal by the International Whaling Commission to lift the 24-year ban on commercial whaling. Advocates are pleading with President Obama to back out of the deal and save the whales.
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The proposal made by the International Whaling Commission (IWC) will make it legal for Japan, Norway and Iceland to hunt whales for the next 10 years. These are the three remaining countries in the world that still pursue the cruel practice. The new policy will place a limit on the number of whales to be hunted and will call for close supervision of the hunts.
The policy does not say whether the ban will be reinstated after the decade of killing has ended. It’s hard to get a grasp on the real intent behind the new policy. Is the IWC weaning Japan, Norway and Iceland off the taste of whale or are they caving into the demands of these countries?
The 88 members of IWC will vote on the proposal later this month. Australia has already voiced their opinion and rejected the plan.
Environmental and animal activist organizations are irate over the new policy and are speaking out. They want to strengthen the ban on whaling, not see it become a watered down policy. They view the 24-year ban as a great success that has saved thousands of whales.
Actor and longtime environmentalist Pierce Brosnan spoke out against the proposal on behalf of the International Fund for Animals (IFAW). He urged the President to reconsider his endorsement on modifying the ban.
In a blog for IFAW Brosnan wrote, “In 1982, after most whale populations were plundered to near extinction, the IWC declared a ban on commercial whaling. It came into force in 1986 and remains one of the 20th century’s most iconic conservation victories.”
He also reminded President Obama of his campaign promise.
“As a candidate you promised to end illegal whaling, and we applauded your leadership,” says Brosnan. “But recent reports reveal your administration supports an international proposal, which gives Japan, Iceland and Norway the license to kill whales.”
The White House stated it’s in support of the IWC proposal because it believes it will save the lives of thousands of whales by stopping the three countries from illegally hunting them. The administration also hopes that lifting the ban will stop the countries from taking advantage of the loopholes in the policy. Japan currently uses a loophole that permits whale hunts for scientific purposes. It enables them to slaughter a multitude of whales every year.
Environmentalists disagree with the administration’s rationalization. They say the whaling ban significantly reduced the number of whales killed each year from between 38,000 – 60,000 down to 1,240 – 1,700. Joel Reynolds of the Natural Resources Defense Council’s marine mammal protection program said, “The deal is a step backward, to a time when it was acceptable to kill whales for profit.”
The White House argues that the status quo is not working and a compromise has to be reached between anti-whalers and whalers. This comes after the worst clash between Japanese whalers and activists from the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society this spring. That conflict destroyed the Ady Gil speedboat which was part of the Sea Shepherd fleet and left activist Peter Bethune awaiting trial in Japan.
When PEOPLE.com reached the White House, they said “When it comes to international whaling, the goal of the Obama Administration is to conserve whales. The Administration reaffirms its unwavering support for the commercial whaling moratorium and believes that lethal scientific whaling is unnecessary in modern whale conservation management.”
Patrick Ramage, the whaling director for IFAW looks at the issue from another perspective. He described the repeal as “…. waving the white flag or bowing to the stubbornness of the last three countries engaged in the practice.”
“The moratorium has done more to save whales than the revival of commercial whaling ever could. We will do everything we can to stop it – and to persuade the Obama administration that it should too,” said Joel Reynolds.
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