Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Did U.S. Head of Delegation to IWC Go Rogue?

By Hardy Jones

On March 16, 2008 President Obama said We must strengthen the International Moratorium (on whaling). “Allowing Japan to continue commercial whaling is unacceptable,” he said emphatically. His delegation to the International Whaling Commission’s just concluded intercessional meeting did not support that position. The question is whether there has been a change in the president’s position or his head of delegation Monica Medina has gone rogue and the president is not aware of it.
The intercessional meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) assembled to hammer out a consensus on how the organization would move forward ended with no action taken due to lack of a quorum.

Meeting in St. Pete Beach, Florida from March 2 - 5 the commission addressed the question of how to create a set of regulations and quotas that would satisfy both whale protectionists and whale hunting interests. Of course at the ethical level no such compromise is possible.

Whales are simply not products. They are not creatures to be “harvested” as so many of the whaling delegates describe the process of taking their lives. No one planted these magnificent animals. No one invested resources to grow them. Their taking involves using a small canon to drive an explosive harpoon into their bodies that detonates instants after contact and leads to agonizing death.

The second item to be negotiated was whether to grant a quota of at least fifty humpback whales to Greenland. Many excellent pro-whale organizations argued that there is not enough scientific data available to determine whether humpbacks can be hunted in a sustainable manner. To me this may be a tactic that is appropriate to IWC meetings but these facts do not represent the real reason we should not kill whales.

We should not kill whales because of who and what they are, highly intelligent and magnificent animals beloved of millions of people. In the cases of humpback and fin whales they are endangered species. We have wiped out more than 90 percent of many whale populations. In some cases humans have annihilated whole populations of whales.

The factual, rational and highly regarded New York Times published an editorial opinion that whales should not be killed for any reason.
Australia, New Zealand, the UK, Argentina, Brazil and Mexico spoke strongly of a need to phase out whaling entirely in the Southern Ocean around Antarctica. The United States offerings were weak-kneed. Head of delegation, Monica Medina, was often at odds with the expert members of her own delegation and spoke platitudes and pleasantries that did not present a cogent American position.
Not a single environmental NGO supported Medina’s position. The reasons are as follows:

The proposed set of regulations called The Package would legitimize commercial whaling by suspending commercial whaling moratorium for a decade.
The Package does not prevent contracting governments from exercising their right to object to any or all of the Schedule amendments, or from leaving the Commission and returning with a reservation such as Japan’s current ruse of scientific whaling.
The Package legitimizes whaling in the Southern Ocean in a sanctuary established by the IWC itself.

The Package does not phase whaling down or out.

The Package is not based on sound science. Catch limits will not be calculated using the IWC agreed precautionary scientific approach, or even subject first to consideration by the Scientific Committee.

The Package fails to require the whaling nations to give up their reservations to the CITES Appendix I listing of whales. It provides an incentive for the whaling nations to continue trading with each other under reservation and to develop new commercial products from whale tissues and oils and develop new markets for the trade in whale products in the future.

But more than any and all of these flaws in the Package there is one simple truth: Whales are not for killing.

1 comment:

Paul said...

Hardy, your eloquence and simple clarity is needed at all levels, and nowhere more so than at the IWC. What is the word for the phenomenon wherein the voice of the people, and the voice of reason is ignored? These truly are remarkable and frightening times in our history, the effects of which will be seen in short order. The whales will pay, and consequently, so will we.