Sunday, April 01, 2007

Normalizing whale conservation

The Secretariat of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) has distributed last week the Annotated Provisional Agenda of the 59th IWC Annual Meeting that will take place in Anchorage, Alaska 28-31 May.

It includes a new agenda item, "The IWC in the future" proposed by the new Chair Bill Hogarth of the US and the new Vice-Chair Minoru Morimoto of Japan. The Annotations say that "the Chair and Vice-Chair believe that it would be useful for the Commission to have a general discussion concerning the IWC in the future, given inter alia the impasse reached on [...] the number of issues for which polarisation rather than consensus appears to be the norm."

One month and a half before the IWC meets in Anchorage, the future of the international whale regime will also be examined at the Symposium on the Future of Whale Conservation in the 21st Century we are organizing on behalf of the Pew Charitable Trusts at UN Headquarters in New York on 12-13 April.

The Japanese Fisheries Agency has argued for some time that the IWC needs to be "normalized". They are seeking a return to the spirit of 1946 when the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling (ICRW) was adopted to allow the deployment of the whaling industry in the aftermath of World War-II.

Other governments, like the Latin American countries signatories of the Buenos Aires Declaration 2005 and Buenos Aires Declaration 2006, New Zealand, France or the UK among many others are arguing that the world has changed in so many ways since 1946 that we should look to the future, and not repeat mistakes of the past.

Whereas the Japanese Fisheries Agency says it wants to normalize commercial whaling, what others are seeking in fact is to normalize whale conservation. On this year's 25th anniversary of the adoption (in 1982) of the moratorium on commercial whaling, and when there is virtually no market for whale meat anymore, it's about time to heal the wound.

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