Monday, March 2, 2009

Time to Replace the U.S. IWC Whaling Commissioner?

Congressman Nick J. Rahall (D-WV), the current chair of the House Natural Resources Committee, has written a letter to the acting secretary of the Department of Commerce asking that the current U.S. Commissioner to the International Whaling Commission (IWC), Dr. William Hogarth, be replaced. His main reason is that Dr. Hogarth was involved in closed-door IWC negotiations that will reduce Japan's scientific whaling in the Southern Ocean in return for allowing Japan to conduct whaling in its coastal waters. This deal might result in the reduction of Japan's scientific whaling, but Congressman Rahall points out that it would not be binding, and could pave the way for more commercial whaling. He emphasizes that both public opinion remains opposed to whaling, which makes these rather un-transparent negotiations troubling. Dr. Hogarth is a political appointee.

The closed-door IWC meetings have been a point of contention for many NGOs and others concerned about the apparent plans of some countries to expand or reinvigorate commercial whaling. Congressman Rahall is right that the new Administration, with its commitment to greater transparency in government, should make sure that the U.S. IWC commissioner is as committed to transparency as they are, especially when the survival of vulnerable cetacean populations is at stake.

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