Wed, Sep 12, 2018 - Page 6 News List

Japan proposes ending commercial whaling ban

‘SCIENCE IS CLEAR’?Japan wants to set up a committee to oversee sustainable whaling, but others contend that whaling on the high seas has proved difficult to manage


Demonstrators protest against the deaths of whales on Monday in front of the Costao do Santinho Resort Hotel in Florianopolis, Brazil, where the International Whaling Commission plenary meeting is being held.

Photo: EPA-EFE

Japan on Monday proposed an end to a decades-old ban on commercial whaling at an international conference, saying that there is no longer a scientific reason for what was supposed to be a temporary measure.

However, the proposal faces stiff opposition from countries that argue that many whale populations are still vulnerable or, even more broadly, that the killing of whales is increasingly seen as unacceptable. Japan currently kills whales under a provision that allows hunting for research purposes.

“Science is clear: There are certain species of whales whose population is healthy enough to be harvested sustainably,” reads the Japanese proposal, presented on Monday at the biannual International Whaling Commission meetings taking place this week in Florianopolis, Brazil.

“Japan proposes to establish a Committee dedicated to sustainable whaling (including commercial whaling and aboriginal subsistence whaling),” the proposal said.

Japan’s proposal would also change how the international body operates, reflecting its frustration with an organization that it says has become “intolerant” and a “mere forum for confrontation.”

It says it hopes that new rules — including allowing measures to be adopted by simple, rather than super, majority — would break longstanding deadlocks and allow the countries who prize conservation and those who push for sustainable use of whales to “coexist.”

While Japan says that whale stocks have recovered sufficiently to allow for commercial hunting, conservationists contend that whaling on the high seas has proved difficult to manage.

“Time and again, species after species has been driven to near extinction,” said Patrick Ramage, director of marine conservation at the International Fund for Animal Welfare.

If the ban on commercial whaling were to be lifted, it would be up to the commission to set catch limits.

It is not clear when the vote is to take place. The meeting lasts until Friday. It is also possible that the Japanese could pull back the proposal — or attempt to negotiate the inclusion of parts of it in other proposals.

Brazil has submitted a proposal that says that such whaling “is no longer a necessary economic activity, has systematically reduced whale populations to dangerously low levels.”

The US agrees that the ban is necessary for conservation.

“The Australian people have clearly made a decision that they don’t believe that whaling is something that we should be undertaking in the 21st century,” Australian Assistant Minister for Agriculture and Water Resources Anne Ruston said on the meeting’s sidelines.

“The argument that we put forward from Australia is that we don’t want to see any whales killed, whether they’re killed because [of] commercial whaling or it’s so-called scientific whaling,” she said.

The commission declared a “pause” to commercial whaling beginning in the 1985-1986 season, but it remains in place today.

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