Japan and Norway moved a step closer today to lifting a 1986 ban on commercial whaling, after many of their foes on the issue agreed to press ahead with drafting new whaling rules.
“It’s another step forward toward the resumption of commercial whaling,” Campaign Whale spokesman Andy Ottaway said.
However, Japan faced a fresh wave of criticism after it confirmed it planned to add two new whale species to its research hunting program, raising the heckles of conservationists and those who fear that the whale population is dwindling too quickly.
Japan Caught 500 Whales in 1999
“We are appalled at the proposal,” said UK Fisheries Minister Elliot Morley after 19 member nations supported his resolution to the International Whaling Commission to condemn Japan, with 12 against and two abstaining.
“We feel very strongly about this,” he said, saying Britain would pursue the issue at bilateral and multilateral meetings.
Japan caught more than 500 minke whales in 1999 for what it says were scientific purposes and plans to add 50 Bryde’s whales and 10 sperm whales to its new research hunting program.
It and Norway, which plans to kill 655 minkes this year, are pushing also for a resumption of commercial whaling.
New Rules for Hunting
Most members the IWC agreed to a 12-month framework to draft procedural rules under which commercial whaling would take place if and when the moratorium was lifted.
But, Britain, which supported the compromise, said it remained adamantly opposed to commercial whaling but had voted for the deal to safeguard the work of the IWC.
The compromise reached at the IWC annual meeting in Adelaide was a bid to end a decade of conflict over the rules for any future resumption of whaling, amid growing concern about the commission’s future role as a regulatory body.
The IWC backed a proposal by 10 so-called moderate nations, including Sweden, Switzerland and Ireland, to meet in February to try to advance agreement on rules for whale-hunting ahead of the commission’s next meeting in London in mid-2001.
The rules of the so-called revised management scheme would not cover quotas, but would spell out inspection and monitoring procedures for future commercial whaling.
Anti-whaling countries and groups want the rules to also cover killing methods, domestic market inspections, and wider environmental issues.
Morley said Britain backed the revised management scheme following allegations that anti-whaling nations were “deliberately being obstructive” but he said it was “relaxed” about the move.
“We have not committed ourselves … apart from agreeing to a framework to take it forward,” he told reporters. “As far as we’re concerned, the procedure agreed today is a framework for discussion, it doesn’t actually fast-track it.”
Environmental groups said they were disappointed with the decision, warning that the new alignment of moderate nations was splitting the IWC’s anti-whaling block.
But Campaign Whale spokesman Ottaway said Japan and Norway still faced major hurdles and opposition from staunch anti-whaling nations.
“What is significant is some traditionally anti-whaling countries are now looking for a compromise on the whole whaling issue which has divided the anti-whaling movement,” Ottaway said.
“And that is only going to benefit the whalers and not the whales,” he said.
The IWC has expressed growing frustration at the deadlock between whalers, mainly Japan and Norway, and anti-whaling nations like the United States, Britain and Australia.
Pro-whalers have urged Australia, which opposes outright any return to commercial whaling, to quit the organization, saying it is a whaling regulator, not a whale conservation body.