After two years of secret, closed door meetings, delegates of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) decided at this morning’s meeting to delay action on the “compromise” proposal that would have sanctioned commercial whaling. If the “compromise” is indeed off the table, it is a huge victory for the whales. The so-called “compromise” would have legalized commercial whaling and rewarded Japan, Norway, and Iceland for their years of defiance of international law.
To achieve a compromise, anti-whaling nations were prepared to trade away the 1986 moratorium on commercial whaling – which has saved hundreds of thousands of whales – in an attempt to bring Japan, Norway and Iceland’s rogue whaling under the control of the IWC. But the pro-whaling nations continued to insist on the right to kill endangered, threatened and vulnerable species – some in designated whale sanctuaries – as well as the right to trade in whale meat and products.
This would not have been a compromise. It would have been a capitulation to whaling nations. And the fact the IWC refused to adopt it – at least in the short term – is a win for the whales.
The compromise proposal remains open on the IWC’s agenda (which means anything can happen), but it looks likely that the Commission will endorse a year-long “cooling off” period.
The IWC must now reaffirm its dedication to the preservation and protection of whales around the world. Every day marine mammals face new attacks from entanglement, ship strikes, ocean noise pollution, bioaccumulation of toxins, and climate change. Given these unprecedented pressures, now is the time for the IWC to rise to the challenge and really focus on the conservation of whales.