The Mammal Society is issuing this statement because unless non-whaling countries force some progress on the development of the Revised Management Scheme, the whaling that is happening will drift further out of international control and there is a danger that the IWC will no longer be regarded as a reputable body.
The Mammal Society believes that commercial whaling meets no pressing human need and is therefore unnecessary. It also recognises that the current situation is untenable, and that without constructive dialogue it is likely that commercial whaling will expand out of control.
The Mammal Society views the taking of whales by Norway and Japan, outside international control, with serious concern and urges strong diplomatic action to ensure that all whaling is brought under International Whaling Commission control. It also supports the adoption of a Revised Management Scheme by the International Whaling Commission and calls for strict international supervision and control of all whaling.
The IWC recognises a special category of whaling by indigenous people known as Aboriginal Subsistence Whaling. The Mammal Society does not oppose limited whaling by indigenous people where a continuing nutritional subsistence need has been identified.
Commercial whaling over the last three centuries has reduced most populations of whales to remnants of their former abundance. Whaling has proved an extremely difficult industry to regulate and it is now known that cheating was rife in the industry and protected species were often taken. The responsibility for regulating whaling lies with the International Whaling Commission (IWC), which is a global inter-governmental convention, set up in 1946 with around 40 members, about 30 of whom are active including the UK. In 1982 the IWC adopted a moratorium on commercial whaling which came into effect in 1986. The moratorium was adopted in part because it was recognised that the IWC’s then mechanism for managing whaling was flawed.
Despite the 1982 moratorium on commercial whaling, Norway and Japan kill whales for primarily commercial purposes. Norway kills minke whales in the North Atlantic under its objection to the moratorium. Japan avoids the moratorium by catching whales in the North Pacific and Southern Ocean whale sanctuary for so-called “scientific” purposes. Each year, the IWC indicates its disapproval of Norway and Japan’s whaling through non-binding resolutions.
The IWC is presently engaged in developing a scheme to manage future whaling, known as the Revised Management Scheme (RMS). The Scientific component of the scheme, known as the Revised Management Procedure (RMP) is now complete, developed with the best scientific advice available from the IWC Scientific Committee. The Mammal Society supports the adoption of the RMP by the IWC. Much of the remaining elements of the RMS are complete and should also be adopted. Clearly, strict international supervision and control is needed if future catch limits are to be respected. The non-whaling countries must ensure that the RMS is strict and resist attempts by the whaling countries to weaken its provisions.
Mammal Society Policy
Whilst The Mammal Society does not support commercial whaling, it believes that engagement in the discussion regarding the management of whaling is necessary to ensure that existing whaling is rigorously regulated and brought under international control.
In taking this position, The Mammal Society is aware of the unique status of whales in international law as highly migratory species and specifically as marine mammals. The Mammal Society has carefully considered the alternative approach which is simply to prevent progress in the IWC. However, The Mammal Society believes that there is a real risk that such an approach might result in the collapse of the IWC and also lead to unregulated large-scale whaling.
The Society considers that any and all whaling, whether for commercial or for other purposes should be strictly and effectively regulated by the IWC according to the mandate given to it by the international community. Furthermore, such whaling should be sustainable, conducted as humanely as possible, and permit reduced whale populations to recover to viable and productive levels.
In all decisions about whaling, under inevitable conditions of uncertainty about either the identities and status of the whale populations, or about the effectiveness of measures for regulation, monitoring and enforcement, the now generally accepted concept of the Precautionary Principle should be applied.
The Society recognises that commercial and recreational whale-watching is a rapidly expanding activity world-wide, with educational, scientific, economic and social and cultural values and that it should be encouraged provided it is conducted in such a manner as not to be detrimental to the welfare of the whales. Here, too, the Precautionary Principle should guide human actions.
The Society favours the designation of substantial regions of the ocean and seas as sanctuaries in which all whaling is indefinitely prohibited, such sanctuaries being declared by national authorities and by the IWC as appropriate. For all sanctuaries there should be management plans and control systems in place, including provisions to minimise deleterious effects on the whale populations therein that may result from other human activities.
The Society is opposed to proposals currently emerging to “cull” whales for the supposed benefit of fisheries, and considers there are no overriding, substantial or convincing scientific arguments supporting such proposals.
The Society is strongly opposed to any killing of substantial numbers of whales for claimed scientific purposes. It considers that such killing is contrary to the spirit and intention of international law, which does not prohibit outright the taking of occasional scientific samples; however, even the occasional taking of any such samples should be strictly regulated by international authorities to ensure they are scientifically necessary and ethically justified.
The Society supports continuing efforts to make the general public, including the media and the political community, aware of the biological nature and the values of whales, both to human culture and to the marine ecosystem as a whole.
The Society strongly supports genuine scientific research on whales and the threats that they face.
The Society is opposed to international commercial trade in products derived from whales.
The Society works for the protection of the habitats of whales (and, in fact, of all cetaceans) from deleterious changes caused by human activities, such as over-fishing, pollution, noise and other forms of disturbance.
In the preceding guidelines the term “whale” should be understood to mean the cetacean species the exploitation of which is recognised as under the regulatory regime of the IWC (that is, all the baleen whales, the sperm whale, the North Atlantic bottlenose whale and the orca) plus other species of toothed ‘whales’ recognised as such in the Schedule to the 1946 Convention under which the IWC was set up (that is, other bottlenose whale species, narwal, beluga, pilot whales). The term “whaling” is the targeted killing for commercial, subsistence, `cultural’ or claimed ‘scientific’ purposes of any of these species.