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Impington-based IWC stands by as Japan resumes whaling


By Mike Scialom


Whales are the largest mammals on earth today
Whales are the largest mammals on earth today

Although there has been worldwide outrage and concern about Japan's withdrawal from the International Whaling Commission – the IWC is based in Impington – the organisation's own response has been muted because it is still awaiting official notification.

"We are of course aware of the announcement from Japan," said Kate Wilson at the international, cross-governmental organisation. "Once we have formal notification from the US - who will receive this from Japan because the US is the depository government for the Convention - we will be able to inform our members and issue a statement to media. I’m not sure how long this will take and the US [government] shutdown has been complicating things."

The consensus on whaling – commercial whaling was banned by the IWC in 1986 after some species were driven almost to extinction – fell apart last week when Japan announced it will withdraw from the IWC, with whaling restarting in July.

Japan has struggled to adhere to the IWC's code of practice, but hitherto its whaling activities were confined to hunting "for scientific purposes" only, though whale meat is on sale in Japan's retail sector. Other than Japan, Iceland and Norway are the only two nations to have continued whaling despite the IWC's moratorium. Japan's decision means that, from July, Japanese whalers will be permitted to hunt in the waters around its islands and in the country's exclusive economic zone which includes far-reaching martime boundaries.

Japan has been called a "pirate whaling nation" after its decision to leave the IWC but the fact is that whale meat like this on sale in Japan has always been available in Japan despite its pretence of only hunting whales "for scientific purposes"
Japan has been called a "pirate whaling nation" after its decision to leave the IWC but the fact is that whale meat like this on sale in Japan has always been available in Japan despite its pretence of only hunting whales "for scientific purposes"

The international community is now braced for a similar response from Iceland and Norway. Trond Viken, head of communications at Norway's Ministry of Trade, Industry and Fisheries, told the Cambridge Independent: "Norway have appreciated and valued the cooperation with Japan in the IWC and in other relevant international fora on marine mammals.

"A normalization of both conservation and sustainable harvest of marine mammals is a fundamental part of our endeavours towards a knowledge-based relationship between man and nature.

"To this end Norway has on several occasions expressed serious concern about the dysfunctionality of the IWC."

Mr Viken, asked for a response on Japan's reversal, said: "Japan's future relationship with The International Whaling commission is for Japan to decide."

Last year Norway has announced a 28 per cent increase of its annual whaling quota to 1,278 whales to shore up support its whaling sector.

"Governments everywhere should condemn this in the strongest terms,” said Jack Ashby, manager of the Museum of Zoology in Cambridge, on Twitter. “Whales belong in the sea, not on the dinner table.”

Professor Tony Booth, of the University of Cambridge's Department of Education, said: "If we are to save ourselves from the destruction of our planet's environment we have to understand the nature of our interdependence on each other and other animals as well as the trees and plants which help to shape our climate and nourish us. The decision of the Japanese government to restart commercial whaling alongside Norway and Iceland promotes the idea that humans are at the top of a hierarchy of worth. It shows no respect for whales and other large brained animals with human-like complex cultures, social relationships and forms of communication.

Whales were disappearing before the International Whaling Commission established a moratorium in 1986 which is now in danger
Whales were disappearing before the International Whaling Commission established a moratorium in 1986 which is now in danger

"This worldview is linked to a nationalism that promotes the value of some peoples and nations over others which is on the rise in Europe and around the world. It is part of an exploitative system that creates widespread oppression and distracts us from the most important task of the 21st century, to move away from environmental destruction and exploitation and towards living in harmony within our nested ecosystems and the limits of our biosphere."

The IWC was established in Impington because of its proximity to the British Antarctic Survey’s Cambridge base. It has 88 nation members.



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