Blog: Whale of a time

Catherine Sleep | 22 December 2005

The Norwegian government seems determined to court controversy over whaling for no very good reason. Parliament has unanimously voted to raise the total of minke whales the country’s whalers will be allowed to kill from 797 in 2005 to 1,052 in 2006.

Couple points here: first off, for the last two seasons whalers have not been able to land their entire quota of minke – so raising the quota is meaningless and, dare I say it, provocative. Second, more salient point: Norway is cocking a snook at a 20-year-old commercial moratorium on whaling administered by the International Whaling Commission (IWC).

Norway isn’t bound by the ban because it objected to its introduction. Pray tell, what is the use of said Commission, if members (and yes, Norway is a member) can ignore any ruling they disagree with?

The IWC website outlines the objection procedure, which indeed allows governments that object to a particular decision not to adhere to it. The thinking behind this is that without this mechanism the 1946 International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling would never have been signed. In other words, the fear was that countries would simply refuse to join the club at all and thus not be bound by any of the regulations.

I’m sure that’s true, but the IWC shouldn’t always cater for the lowest common denominator if to do so renders it toothless. I’m hardly the first observer to say it’s time for root and branch reform of the IWC, however long and bloody that proves. A Convention drawn up in 1946 cannot reflect the realities of whaling, food supply, public opinion or animal welfare sixty years later. The survival of some of the world’s most iconic animals is at stake.

International Whaling Commission


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