- The 65th meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) ended today with a landmark decision to impose better controls over any future whale hunts conducted for the purposes of so-called scientific research.
WWF is disappointed that Japan, the primary target of the resolution, opposed the measure and said that it will forge ahead with development of a new "scientific whaling" programme regardless of the resolution.
"As a treaty member, Japan should act in good faith and follow the procedures now requested by the commission. Anything less undermines the effectiveness and integrity of this body," said Aimee Leslie, WWF's global marine turtle and cetacean manager.
Commercial whaling has been prohibited since 1986, yet Japan has continued its hunts by issuing to its fleet scientific permits, which are allowed under a convention loophole. In March 2014, the International Court of Justice determined that Japan's hunts were not for purposes of science, and established criteria that the IWC is now seeking to incorporate.
By March 2015, Japan plans to present its new whaling proposal to the IWC's Scientific Committee. The committee then will have the opportunity to review the merits of what Japan puts forward, to test its compliance with the ICJ criteria, and to make recommendations to the commission.Continued commercial whaling
Iceland, another treaty member, maintains a reservation against the commercial moratorium and hunts whales to sell meat to Japan. Iceland's annual hunt of over a hundred endangered fin whales has led to a chill in relations between the island state and other IWC members. Earlier this week the EU, the US and other nations reprimanded Iceland for its hunt and the associated international trade of meat.
"Iceland continues to stand in defiance of the IWC Scientific Committee's conservation recommendations and the will of its peers in the international community," said Leigh Henry, senior policy officer for wildlife conservation at WWF-US. "We call on Iceland to immediately stop its endangered fin whale hunt and to withdraw its reservation to the commercial whaling moratorium."Last chance for action
In a positive development, the commission expanded the mandate of the Scientific Committee to deal with the many other serious threats facing whales, dolphins and porpoises. An estimated 300,000 of these animals die each year after being caught accidentally in fishing gear. Other risks to cetaceans include ship strikes, underwater noise, climate change and pollution.
WWF is particularly concerned about the fate of some cetaceans that are teetering on the brink of extinction. There are only about 150 western pacific grey whales remaining in the Russian Far East, fewer than 100 vaquita porpoises in Mexico's Gulf of California, and 55 adult Maui's dolphins in the waters of New Zealand's North Island.
"There is still hope that together it is possible to save these critically endangered animals. Cooperation between nations is essential to prevent their extinction," said Sarah Goddard, species policy offer for WWF-UK.To speak with a WWF expert at the IWC meeting in English or Spanish please contact:
Alona Rivord, firstname.lastname@example.org, +41 79 959 1963