Friday, June 26, 2009

The IWC's (Not So) Surprising Result

The IWC finished up a day early this week, and as you can probably guess, it wasn't because the delegates all got along so well that they quickly agreed upon plans to resolve all of their disagreements. Instead, they agreed to more discussion on the issue of reforming the IWC. The news this week was not entirely negative, however. Norway announced that its whalers would stop whaling, apparently because the market for whale meat was poor. Yet the optimistic assessment of a Greenpeace Norway campaigner that the industry was dying and would soon be finished may be overstating the situation. The evidence compiled by WWF that government money keeps the Norwegian and Japanese whaling industries economically viable indicates that the profit motive is probably not the primary driver of whaling nations.

But William Hogarth's assertion that resuming limited commercial whaling would satisfy the whalers is equally ridiculous. Hogarth, who retires as IWC chair this year, prefaced his remarks by saying, "I'll probably get in trouble for making this statement..." Like most statements that being by suggesting that the speaker is about to lay upon us some brave bold truth that less intrepid thinkers can't handle, Hogarth went on to make a ridiculous claim: that allowing regulated commercial whaling would reduce the number of whales killed. Because Japan's use of the scientific whaling exemption means that they just have to take a lot of whales, to get a statistically valid sample size! They'd prefer to just take a few, despite the millions they've spent trying to create a bigger national market for whale meat, of course.

Hogarth's new commercial whaling vision includes lots of restrictions to ensure that only enough whales for "local consumption" would be taken. That argument might seem less ridiculous if subsistence whalers in Greenland didn't consistently agitate for larger and larger IWC quotas, only to have whale meat end up being sold in stores (which should not happen if only going for local, indigenous use). My point is that it seems clear that most of the groups wishing to hunt whales seem to be motivated by more than mere survival. Whales should not have to die so that people can fulfill their arcane notions of national pride. It's time that the IWC stopped pretending that pro-whaling nations are trying to protect anything but their own egos.

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