- Title: IWC meets to discuss whaling, south Atlantic sanctuary
- Date: 20th October 2016
- Summary: HVALFJORDUR, ICELAND (FILE - JUNE 29, 2010) (REUTERS) FIN WHALE CARCASS BEING DRAGGED UP ONTO THE BEACH VARIOUS OF TWO FIN WHALE CARCASSES OF BEING DISMEMBERED
- Embargoed: 4th November 2016 14:51
- Keywords: whales whaling dolphins sanctuary
- Location: PORTOROZ, SLOVENIA/HVALFJORDUR, ICELAND/SHIMONOSEKI, JAPAN/AT SEA
- City: PORTOROZ, SLOVENIA/HVALFJORDUR, ICELAND/SHIMONOSEKI, JAPAN/AT SEA
- Country: Slovenia
- Topics: Environment,Nature/Wildlife
- Reuters ID: LVA00654T9WZR
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: The International Whaling Commission (IWC), the world's only forum on whaling, started its regular biennial meeting in Slovenia on Thursday (October 20).
The meeting marks the 70th anniversary of the body established in 1946 to help protect the giant mammals from over hunting, and the 30th anniversary of the implementation of the total ban on whaling.
The 1986 moratorium is praised as one of the greatest achievements of the modern environmentalist movement, responsible for saving hundreds of thousands of whales in the following decades.
Although it did not completely eradicate all whale hunting, the moratorium has drastically reduced the numbers of whales hunted every year throughout the world.
"I think it's an extraordinary success story. When you look at the catch figures right before the moratorium, we are talking about 30,000 whales being killed every year. Today we have 2,000 whales being killed every year, and I think it's probably 2,000 too much," consultant for the Swiss environmentalist non-profit organisation OceanCare, Nicolas Entrup, told Reuters.
Even though most former whaling countries have agreed to support the ban, others chose to defy it, like Japan, which maintained that most whale species are not endangered and that eating whale meat is a valuable part of its culture.
In 1987, only a year after the international moratorium took effect, Japan started using a provision in the convention to issue permits for what it calls "scientific whaling".
This resulted in hundreds of whales killed every year by Japanese whalers, many of them in the Southern Ocean near Antarctica, which led Australia to take Japan to the International Court of Justice. In 2014 the court ruled that Japan's whaling in the Southern Ocean should not be considered as "scientific" and should be stopped.
"[W]hen you look at the moratorium coming into force in 1986, before that time there was not scientific whaling happening, so the moratorium came into place and Japan started scientific whaling. That might tell you something," Entrup said.
Another issue facing whales which some environmental organisations are hoping to raise more awareness about are the two European countries Iceland and Norway which also defy the ban, with numbers of whales killed off by their whalers eclipsing the Japanese.
"What you might question is that at this year's meeting, when you celebrate the 30 years of the moratorium being in place there is not even an agenda item that addresses Norwegian and Icelandic whaling. Both whaling activities are commercial, despite the ban, because countries argue that Norway has voiced an objection to the moratorium and Iceland a reservation when it re-joined the treaty, the convention, many years ago. So I think that needs to be put in question. And it's whaling activities in European waters that are responsible for killing more whales than by Japan. I think we cannot accept that," Entrup added.
The meeting might finally see the 88-member IWC vote on the establishment of the south Atlantic whale sanctuary, an initiative promoted by the so-called Buenos Aires group of countries (Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay) designed to turn into the entire Atlantic between South America and Africa into a whale-friendly area.
"The Buenos Aires group have gone further, they have developed a conversation plan, they have consulted very strongly and intensively with west African countries - and two countries support that declaration, of the south Atlantic as a sanctuary. So what we will see here is maybe even a vote about it. And I do think it's a necessity because with a conservation plan in place you can address all threats to those species in the region, not just hunting, but also anthropogenic threats like bycatch, entanglement, noise, pollution, and others," Entrup said.
The IWC meeting will last until 28 October.
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