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Is killing Whales the best way to save them?


Image credits

Japanese whaling fleet: Australian Customs.

Fritz Geller-Grimm

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MCS South East Monthly Meeting Report June 08/06/2010

Speaker: Jennifer Lonsdale (Founder / Director of Environmental Investigation Agency)

Topic: Is killing Whales the best way to save them?

Jennifer’s talk was based around the proposal to be discussed at the forthcoming meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) that could seriously undermine the present ban on commercial whaling and the possible effects on whales. To help fully understand the contents of her talk, I have included some background information first.
If the proposed legitimised commercial whaling by Japan, Norway and Iceland was agreed, it could have serious implications for whale populations and set us back many years in our bid to help them recover from our devastating onslaught before the implementation of the international ban on commercial whaling in 1986.

Background information

Jennifer and the EIA
(EIA web site)
Jennifer Lonsdale is one of the original founders of the EIA which was established in 1984 to investigate, expose and campaign against the illegal trade in wildlife and the destruction of our natural environment.

Working undercover to expose international environmental crime -such as the illegal trade in wildlife, illegal logging and trade in timber species, and the world-wide trade in ozone depleting substances – the EIA has directly brought about changes in international laws and the policies of governments, saving the lives of millions of rare and endangered animals and putting a stop to the devastating effects of environmental criminals.

International Whaling Commission. IWC (web site)
The International Whaling Commission (IWC) was set up under the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling which was signed in Washington DC on 2nd December 1946. The purpose of the Convention is to provide for the proper conservation of whale stocks and thus make possible the orderly development of the whaling industry.

The main duty of the IWC is to keep under review and revise as necessary the measures laid down in the Schedule to the Convention which govern the conduct of whaling throughout the world. These measures, among other things, provide for the complete protection of certain species; designate specified areas as whale sanctuaries; set limits on the numbers and size of whales which may be taken; prescribe open and closed seasons and areas for whaling; and prohibit the capture of suckling calves and female whales accompanied by calves. The compilation of catch reports and other statistical and biological records is also required.

In addition, the Commission encourages, co-ordinates and funds whale research, publishes the results of scientific research and promotes studies into related matters such as the humaneness of the killing operations.

The Talk
I have used the text from a PowerPoint presentation Jennifer used during her talk, instead of the notes taken, as this will be a more accurate reflection of her talk.

Jennifer introduced herself and the role of the EIA and then progressed to the following points.

In the 1940s whaling companies and countries were seeing significant declines in global whale populations as a result of commercial whaling. The whaling nations including the UK wished to bring commercial whaling under some control and the IWC was then established in 1946 as a sort of “Whalers’ Club” to help preserve the industry.

The IWC is the international body responsible for the regulation of whaling and the conservation and management of whale populations. But during the 1970s it was evident that the IWC was failing to protect commercially hunted whale populations.

Numerous whale populations faced extinction, in 1982 members of the IWC voted for an international ban on commercial whaling – The Moratorium – which was implemented in 1986.
28 years later, the Moratorium continues to be one of the world’s most successful conservation measures, it has saved the lives of hundreds of thousands of great whales and allowed several populations to recover from the brink of extinction.

Most countries complied with the Moratorium and gave up whaling. But Norway, Iceland and Japan continue to kill whales for commercial purposes by exploiting loopholes in the IWC Convention to justify their whaling.
Since its implementation, Japan, Norway and Iceland have placed relentless pressure on the IWC to overturn the Moratorium.

To resolve decades of discord, a 2-year discussion on the Future of the IWC has resulted in a proposal from the IWC’s Chair and Vice-Chair:

A Consensus Decision to Improve the Conservation of Whales.

The primary item in this proposal is legitimised commercial whaling for Japan, Norway and Iceland – only, therefore rewarding Japan for 24 years’ abuse of IWC agreements and rules!

Countries including South Korea and Faroe Islands who have complied with the Moratorium would not be permitted to resume commercial whaling, despite expressing a wish to do so.

The Proposal Claims to save whales, but the proposed catch limits for the next 10 years would result in an increase in the number of whales killed in the North Atlantic. Norway’s proposed catch limits of 600 minke whales a year would be above its actual annual average catch for the past 5 years.

But in Norway consumer demand for whale meat is falling and they already have a large stock of frozen whale meat, so any increase in production would have to allow Norway to export whale meat to countries such as China.

The same principles also apply to Iceland which has a Population of only 318,000

The Proposal award’s Iceland with an annual catch limit of:

80 fin whales + 80 minke whales

318,000 people cannot possibly consume this amount of whale meat and blubber.

Therefore the proposal would result in Iceland putting extreme pressure on CITES (the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species) to overturn the international trade ban in whale products. If this deal is agreed, Iceland may be allowed to join the EU and continue its whaling which is currently banned in EU waters.

Japan would be granted legitimised commercial whaling within the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary (which was set up by the IWC) to hunt for minke whales and endangered fin whales. Japan would also be awarded catch limits for sei, Brydes and minke whales in the North Pacific. Inevitably Japan would be catching minke whales from an endangered population in the North Pacific.

The Proposal ignores the 20,000 whales, dolphins and porpoises killed annually in Japan’s coastal waters. Up to 15,000 Dall’s porpoises are killed every year in Japan’s coastal waters which makes it the world’s largest cetacean hunt.

Japan also kills 66 Baird’s beaked whales every year in Japan’s coastal waters. Baird’s beaked whales reach a length of 12.8m and are much larger than a minke whale. Japan refuses to recognise this whale as a large cetacean and says it is therefore not protected by the Moratorium.

Japan allows these enormous whales to be hunted with non-exploding (cold) harpoons. The cold harpoon was banned by the IWC in 1981 because it was considered inhumane. The Baird’s Beaked Whale is The Forgotten Whale as Japan hides this hunt from the outside world.

The IWC ignores it as well.


The Proposal includes plans for a monitoring, control and surveillance scheme. Its aim is to prevent illegal, unregulated and unreported whaling. Annually the scheme would cost about £1.5million to operate. Quite possibly taxpayers around the world including you and me would be paying to monitor Japans, Norway and Iceland’s whale hunting.

This could mean that membership fees could double if the IWC agreed that this cost was to be shared by all member countries. This could result in the UK’s fees increasing from about £63,000 a year to at least £125,000 per year. The cost of sightings survey’s essential for whale population estimates is not included in the costing.
The Proposal has some good elements but they are over-shadowed by the issue of Japan, Norway and Iceland’s commercial whaling.

So will killing whales save whales?


Legitimised commercial whaling by Norway, Japan and Iceland would result in:
• Commercial whaling by other nations including Korea and possibly Faroe Islands;
• Trade in whale meat with countries including China;
• Uncontrolled illegal (pirate) whaling;
• Potential decimation of some whale populations;
• Vital IWC resources taken from conservation programmes;

Legitimised commercial whaling by Norway, Japan and Iceland will NOT:
• Solve the discord in the IWC;
• Stop “scientific” whaling by IWC members;
• End illegal whaling;
• Give greater protection to whales;
• Contribute to improvement in the conservation of cetaceans (whales, dolphins and porpoises);

So what is the future for the IWC?
A shared partnership using the expertise of all members of the IWC, including Japan, Norway and Iceland. Working together to develop the excellent work the IWC is already doing, to address the terrifying threats to cetaceans. Working together to find and implement mitigation strategies that will …

Give cetaceans a future

End of talk, questions taken.

So recapping on what Jennifer has said above it would appear that the proposed change to the ban on whaling, could lead to whale meat becoming the new Shark fin. The whaling nations cannot expand within their own markets, which are shrinking and would therefore need to export to countries in the Far East where whale meat could be used as a way of showing off the new found wealth within countries such as China. Plus the increased traffic in whale meat would make it almost impossible to prevent illegal catches entering the food chain.

The proposal must be stopped, the UK government is against it, but there are members of the EU supporting the proposal. Also it seams implausible, but America is supporting the changes.

Therefore write to Mr Obama and ask him how he justifies America’s stance on this matter and lobby your euro mp to make sure the E. U vote is against the proposal.

p.s and many thanks to Jennifer for a very interesting and informative talk.

Contact details for the E.U and the Whitehouse.

E-mail Mr Obama at

e-mail the E.U president at

Find out who is your MEP using and then contact them as well.

I modified a standard letter found on the Australian MCS site or you could write your own. A list of related petitions and letters are listed below.


AVAAZ: ales_under_threat_10/ p?CLICKTF

Atlantic Whale Foundation: /index.asp?page=petition

Greenpeace: http://www.thepetitionsite .com/takeaction/966/035/49 1

IFAW: http://www.thepetitionsite .com/takeaction/175/446/21 0

WDCS: top/killing_trade/petition .php

Whaleman petition Hayden Panettiere: causes/13 


Greenpeace: /gpeace/site/Advocacy?cmd= display&page=UserAction&id =624

Australian Marine Conservation Organisation: http://www.marineconservat tive_page_id=660#Take%20Ac tion

NRDC: https://secure.nrdconline. org/site/Advocacy?cmd=disp lay&page=UserAction&id=182 5&autologin=true&

Humane Society: ampaign/

IFAW: ampaign/ 7

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