Showdown nears over whale sanctuary
The future of the Southern Ocean whale sanctuary could be on the line at upcoming International Whaling Commission meetings
May 12, 1999
Web posted at: 11:20 AM EDT
Advocates and opponents of commercial whaling are getting ready for a showdown meeting and once again the fate of the whales, the Southern Ocean whale sanctuary -- and the International Whaling Commission -- are on the line.
Whether the intent of the whaling convention, signed by 40 nations in 1946, was to conserve whale populations or to manage them sustainably has been a bone of contention among the participating nations. The 51st annual meeting of the commission is sure to test the strength of the organization.
In 1986, the commission set a moratorium on commercial whaling, and in 1994 a majority voted to establish the Southern Ocean Sanctuary. Several countries, most notably Japan and Norway, have essentially ignored the ban.
Japan takes around 400 minke whales a year for scientific research. Organizations like Greenpeace argue the majority of those whales wind up in Japanese sushi bars. Norway's whaling industry kills several thousand whales a year. Whaling permits have also been granted to several aboriginal groups.
These nations and others argue that the convention was designed to maintain whale populations on a sustainable level, not as a vehicle for pure conservation. Nations that favor a total ban on commercial whaling argue that whale populations are in trouble, showing increased mortality over the past 10 years and signs of stress due to environmental threats posed by climate change, increases in chemical contaminants and habitat degradation.
Greenpeace is organizing an online campaign and petition in support of a global whale sanctuary.
Preliminary IWC scientific meetings are under way and the final week, when the member nation's representatives convene, will be a test of the group.
Japan is expected to submit a proposal contending that the 13 million-square-mile area of the Southern Ocean around Antarctica was declared a sanctuary illegally because it violates the purpose and objectives of the original treaty, known as the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling.
A compromise plan known as the Irish proposal, which was introduced at last year's meeting in Oman, will also be revisited. Under the proposal, traditional whaling nations would be allowed to take whales up to 200 miles off the shores of their own coasts. The rest of the global ocean would become essentially a whale sanctuary.
Groups like Greenpeace argue that more than 1.4 million whales have been killed during this century alone and that whales come in shore annually to give birth and take care of their young, making the 200 mile offshore proposal akin to the proverbial shooting fish in a barrel.
The 51st annual meeting of the IWC takes place May 24-28 in Grenada.
Copyright 1999, Environmental News Network, All Rights Reserved
Coast Guard reportedly boards
May 11, 1999
Multi-nation effort collars
May 6, 1999
Is the Endangered Species Act
December 22, 1998
RELATED ENN STORIES:
IWC concludes annual meeting
Whaling commission on the verge of break up
IWC to study environmental threats
Opposition to whaling on the decline
Japan takes 440 whales for scientific research
Greenpeace Global Whale Sanctuary petition
International Whaling Commission
Japan Whaling Association
High North Alliance
Whales in the wild
Note: Pages will open in a new browser window
External sites are not endorsed by CNN Interactive.