Japan's commercial whaling bid blocked at IWC

Christopher Davidson
September 16, 2018

There is no longer a "social licence" for countries to kill whales for profit, Australia has told the International Whaling Commission in Brazil.

Gales said the debate was not about human rights, "nor is it a debate about the important subject of global food security", but was a "business proposition" against which there were "legitimate environmental and welfare concerns". It has repeatedly tried to lift the ban.

Twenty-seven countries supported Japan's proposal on the final day of the five-day annual meeting in Florianopolis, Brazil, while 41 voted against it.

"If scientific evidence and diversity are not respected, if commercial whaling based on science is completely denied, and if there is no possibility for the different positions and views to coexist with mutual understanding and respect, then Japan will be pressed to undertake a fundamental reassessment of its position as a member of the IWC", Masaaki Taniai, Japan's state minister of agriculture, forestry and fisheries, said after the vote Friday.

In addition, the IWC's new bycatch initiative, which addresses a worldwide threat to whales and dolphins that are accidentally caught and drowned in fishing nets, was endorsed without a vote being necessary.

Iceland, which along with Norway, ignores the 32-year moratorium on commercial whaling, said the Brazilian document - which would outlaw Japan's "scientific" hunt - "is meant to be divisive".

As a Japanese proposal in 2014 to resume commercial whaling was also rejected, this time Tokyo called for easing the IWC decision-making rules. But Japan restarted two years later, reducing its quotas.

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Pro-whaling nations such as Japan, Norway and Russian Federation voted against the proposal.

Monaco's commissioner Frederic Briand said the world had changed a lot since the IWC was created in 1946 to manage whaling.

Rebecca Regnery, senior director of wildlife at Humane Society International, said the bycatch mitigation initiative was of special importance to whale conservation and health.

"It was a strong notice of intent from Australia and other pro-conservation countries that they consider Japan's proposal to be irresponsible and out of date", she said.

Animal protection organisation the Humane Society International has reacted with bitter disappointment as the creation of a whale sanctuary in the South Atlantic was voted down by pro-whaling nations such as Japan, Korea, Norway and Russian Federation at the International Whaling Commission. Tuesday's vote failed to reach a required three-quarters majority with 39 nations voting in favor, 25 against and three abstentions.

"I would be disappointed if the countries that supported aboriginal whaling earlier went along with this", said Iceland's whaling commissioner Stefan Asmundsson.

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