To hunt or not to hunt whales…. that is the question and it has been put on the agenda of the annual gathering of the International Whaling Commission by Japan.
And Tokyo is claiming a victory in a bid to get a twenty year moratorium on whaling reversed. .
On the face of it, the meeting in the Carribbean has gone the way of the pro-whaling nations.A vote by 33 to 32 has approved a statement saying that the whaling ban is no longer necessary.
Currently, Japan says it does uphold the IWC’s regulations and has done so since they came into force in 1986, but along with Iceland it uses a loophole to conduct scientific whaling. Norway is the only country that ignores the ban.
And still 2,000 whales are killed each year.
Bill Hogarth USA Commissioner:
“The bottom line is you want to save whales right now. The numbers are increasing; probably over 2000 whales being taken. A lot of them under various disguises but it is basically commercial.”
But Japan believes that whale numbers have risen sufficiently to allow hunting of certain species and that the commission should move more towards sustainable whaling:
Japanese representative at the meeting, Joji Morishita:
“ Every time I ask why we have to exempt whales from standard ways of research on animals there’s no clear answer.My understanding is that there are mostly emotions in the so called public opinions in many countries. May be it’s time we took this issue more seriously.”
The approval of the non-binding pro-whaling declaration by the IWC will not immediately threaten the moratorium – a two thirds majority is needed to overturn it, but environmentalists see the vote as a wake-up call claiming that a return to commercial whaling is a step closer.
Japan says when it does return it will not be on the previous scale but cites a demand for whale meat at home.
Nations opposed to the practice say it is not just a question of the number of whales being hunted. For many it is the method used to kill the creatures.The harpoon is still the weapon of choice, and for many that is enough to sway the argument against.