Save the Whalers
According to its web site, the IWC's purpose is to manage whale stocks, "and thus make possible the orderly development of the whaling industry". It was formed in 1946, when the major whaling countries, alarmed at the depletion of whale stocks all over the world, got together to set limits in order to save the industry from committing suicide by driving its prey into extinction. This is a key point: the purpose was not so much to save the whales, as to save the whalers.
The commission imposed sharp limits on whaling, and indeed whale stocks began to bounce back. By the late 1970s, minke whales were no longer in any danger, and several other species were also making strong comebacks. One would have expected the IWC to react accordingly, and raise catch limits. Indeed, according to the IWC web site:
In 1975, a new management policy for whales was adopted by the IWC based on these characteristics. This was designed to bring all stocks to the levels providing the greatest long-term harvests, by setting catch limits for individual stocks below their sustainable yields.Huh? Stocks are recovering, and suddenly there's a complete moratorium? How can a moratorium be in the interest of "the orderly development of the whaling industry"?
However, because of uncertainties in the scientific analyses (in part due to the difficulty in obtaining the complex data required) and therefore the precise status of the various whale stocks, the IWC decided at its meeting in 1982 that there should be a pause (the ‘moratorium’) in commercial whaling on all whale stocks from 1985/86.
A Revised Management Procedure (RMP) has been developed subsequently, which the Commission accepted and endorsed in 1994 but has yet to implement. This balances the somewhat conflicting requirements to ensure that the risk to individual stocks is not seriously increased, while allowing the highest continuing yield.
The IWC's dirty non-at-all-a-secret is that by far the majority of its members are no longer whaling nations. Indeed, a fair number of them were never whaling nations, and thus should never have been on the IWC at all, but the main powerhouses, such as the USA, Australia, and New Zealand, used to be major whaling countries, but no longer have any whalers left, and have no intention of resuming whaling once the moratorium is lifted.
In many of these countries, a curious notion seems to have taken hold, that whaling itself is somehow wrong, that whales ought not to be killed no matter how numerous they might be, that even if we could be sure that the species would never be in danger again it is simply immoral to take the life of a whale. Precisely how so many people in these countries came to hold such a belief, how its propagandists successfully infiltrated the teaching profession, and, without opposition, brainwashed much of a generation into believing it, and what can or should have been done to stop it, is another question. But it's a fact, and the result is that politicians in these countries, on both sides of politics, represent this belief and stand up for it, both in domestic and international forums.
When a country decides to permanently give up whaling, as these countries have done, it would made sense that they would also withdraw from the IWC. After all, they no longer have an interest in the health of the whaling industry, indeed they have no industry whose health need concern them, and therefore there doesn't seem to be a reason why they should have a say in the management of the world's whale stocks. After all, if there were an international commission to manage cattle stocks, we wouldn't expect to see India on it, would we?
But the anti-whaling nations have decided that it is their sacred duty, not only to refrain from whaling themselves, but to prevent everyone from killing whales, forever. And so they remain on the IWC, with the open and express intention of voting down any plan, no matter how sensible or scientifically based, to resume commercial whaling. Indeed, they think themselves very forbearing in tolerating the limited traditional and scientific whaling that goes on now, and there is significant political pressure in their respective countries to stop even that.
As far as I know, there are really only a small handful of genuine whaling countries left in the world: Japan, Norway, perhaps Iceland. By all rights, they should be the only members left on the IWC, and they should be able to decide between them when to end the moratorium on each species of whale, and what limits to set on their catches. The non-whaling countries of the world should recognise that by their own choice this is no longer their business, and should butt out. Since they won't, the whaling countries should withdraw from the IWC, and form their own body, in which membership should be restricted to countries that have a working whaling industry.
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posted by Milhouse at 12:04 AM