Thursday, May 21, 2009

New Legislation to Protect Whales

In the weeks before next month's International Whaling Commission, some members of the U.S. House of Representatives have introduced legislation that would make the U.S. a leader in whale conservation. The bill is co-sponsored by Congressman Eni F.H. Faleomavaega (D-AS) and Congressman William Delahunt (D-MA) and the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), an ASOC Council Member. The bill is called the International Whale Conservation and Protection Act of 2009. According to the press release, the legislation includes:

"-Promoting international efforts to conserve and protect the world's whales throughout their range.
-Strengthening the whale conservation and protection efforts of relevant international organizations including the United Nations Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals, the International Whaling Commission (IWC), the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), and the International Maritime Organization.
Ensuring that the IWC commercial whaling ban is neither lifted nor weakened and that the related illegal and lethal scientific whaling is ended.
-Reducing and, where possible, eliminating sources of human caused death, injury, harassment and disturbance of the world's whales.
-Initiating and expanding research to improve our understanding of the world's whales including health and reproduction, whale habitats and the impacts of human activities and other threats to whales.

Many anti-whaling groups had been dismayed over U. S. whaling commissioner and current IWC Chair William Hogarth's attempt to end Japanese scientific whaling in the Southern Ocean by allowing them to resume commercial whaling in their coastal waters. Although Hogarth expressed regret over the fact that large numbers of whales were still being killed, his plan to give official IWC sanction to coastal whaling in return for only a reduction in scientific whaling was viewed as capitulation to pro-whaling interests. The deal never happened, and Hogarth is stepping down as Chair and the U.S. representative. Presumably the new representative chosen by the Obama administration will take a stronger anti-whaling line at the IWC, but clearly some members of Congress don't want to take any chances with the new person and want to cement a stronger anti-whaling line in U.S. policy.

The inclusion of whale research is another bright spot in the legislation. Japanese whaling fleets aren't the only threats to whales these days.

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