Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Why President Obama Needs to Block the Backroom Deal on International Whaling

By Mark J. Palmer and Timothy Feder
Earth Island Institute

Plans are underway to gut the international whaling moratorium first approved in 1982 by the International Whaling Commission (IWC).

The secret IWC deal, originally negotiated by the Bush administration, would allow Japan, Norway and Iceland to continue their slaughter of whales despite the existing IWC moratorium on commercial whaling. In fact, the deal would allow those countries to continue their illegal whale slaughter for commercial gain under the approval of the IWC, including whaling in the southern Antarctic Ocean whale sanctuary designated by the IWC.

Japan has been flaunting the IWC treaty by issuing “scientific” permits as a cover for their ongoing commercial whaling operations. Norway and Iceland objected to the moratorium and have continued their whaling operations despite the international whaling moratorium.

A large coalition of international environmental and animal welfare organizations recently completed an analysis of the newly proposed IWC deal and are uniformly opposing it.1 The deal, as currently formulated, would legitimize commercial whaling practices, allows continued illegal trade in whale products, and would undermine historic efforts to end international whaling. These quotas would be approved for ten years. Other nations, such as South Korea, are already complaining that the deal does not include their country returning to commercial whaling.

While the proposed deal reputedly includes safeguards in the form of quotas for whaling nations, the sham “quotas” actually do nothing to protect potentially endangered species of whales and are based on commercial demands by the whaling nations, not scientific analysis of how many whales can be killed without detriment to the population.

A recent scientific study published in Marine Mammal Science indicates that most “precipitous declines” in populations of whales (a decline of 50% or more in 15 years) would not be detected.

In fact, there would be a 75% chance that precipitous declines in large whales would not be detected.

To anyone concerned about protecting our environment and the world’s oceans, this proposal is a chilling indictment of IWC’s backroom politics and a failure of U.S. leadership in efforts to protect whales and marine mammals.

The devastating impact of this new proposal would seriously undermine efforts to protect endangered whale populations. This cynical deal would lift current restrictions and encourage other nations to begin whaling operations.

The IWC will meet in Morocco in June to vote on the secret deal, although the final wording of the agreement is still under wraps (especially the number of whales Japan, Norway and Iceland will get to kill).

The Obama administration needs to know that this deal is unacceptable and a sell-out to all who are concerned about marine conservation and protecting our environment.

While the U.S. IWC representatives profess not to officially support the proposed deal until they see the final wording, insiders have knowledge that they in fact helped write the deal and are actively supporting it behind the scenes with other countries.

This duplicity undercuts the historic U.S. position of support for the moratorium on all commercial whaling.

(On the positive side, the Obama Administration recently submitted comments requesting a ban on trade in whale meat as part of the IWC Deal.)

It is not clear why the Obama Administration would risk its environmental reputation by lending its support for such a dangerous and disingenuous international agreement.

We call on the Obama Administration to reject the proposed deal and instruct our U.S. IWC representative Monica Medina to block any agreement or administrative efforts to gut or limit the current international moratorium on commercial whaling.


You can contact President Obama at or phone the White House comment line: 202-456-1111 or contact your Congressional representatives at

Urge them to oppose the IWC Deal allowing commercial whaling for ten years. The US position should be that Japan, Norway and Iceland must end their illegal whaling activities NOW. Thank you.

1 List of environmental and marine conservation organizations supporting the NGO analysis of the proposed IWC agreement includes: American Cetacean Society, Animal Welfare Institute, Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition, Asociación do Biologia Marina Guatemala, Australians for Animals, California Gray Whale Coalition, Campaign Whale, Campaigns Against the Cruelty to Animals, Centro De Conservacion Cetacea, Cetacean Society International, Comite Ballena Azul Nicaragua, The Cousteau Society, Dolphin Connection, Environmental Investigation Agency, Equilibrio Azul,, Fundacion Promar, Fundacion Yubarta, Global Ocean, Humane Society International, The Humane Society of the United States, In Defense of Animals, Instituto de Conservación de Ballenas, International Fund for Animal Welfare, International League for Protection of Cetaceans, Irish Seal Sanctuary, LegaSeas International, Natural Resources Defense Council, Ocean Care, Ocean Sentry

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