Whaling, to be announced

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Whaling, to be announced A 22-year moratorium on commercial whaling remains unchangedas a meeting of whaling regulators ended June 27 without a vote on some of themost divisive proposals. Meetings of the International Whaling Commission in recentyears have deadlocked over whether some commercial whaling should be allowed.And delegates have traded barbs over whether what Japan calls scientific whaling isjust a commercial venture with a legal name. The maneuvering had grown so divisive that chair WilliamHogarth led a special session in March on the future of the commission and waysto break out of the impasse. His report from that special session called forfewer big public votes on divisive issues, more emphasis on smaller groups workingtoward consensus and other changes in the process to create a betternegotiating atmosphere. The commission’s 60th meeting, which just concluded in Santiago, Chile,did not resolve the debates, although some issues played out differently fromthe way they had in past years. Sign Up For the Latest from Science NewsHeadlines and summaries of the latest Science News articles, delivered to your inbox Thank you for signing up! There was a problem signing you up. Japan,once again, did make a case that the moratorium was bringing hardship to itswhaling enterprises. The Japanese have been arguing for a change in themoratorium rules to allow some commercial whaling: what’s being called small-typewhaling. This year, however, the Japanese delegations did not request a formalvote about changes to the moratorium, and Hogarth thanked them for theircooperative attitude. At the opposite end of the spectrum, Brazil, Argentinaand South Africa brought upa proposal, which they have introduced before, to create a formal whalesanctuary in the South Atlantic. This year theproposers cited the efforts to change the commission processes and did not askfor a formal vote. Again Hogarth praised their approach. One proposal that did come to a vote was Denmark’s request to permit whalersin west Greenlanders to catch 10 humpbacks a year until 2012. The commissiondoes allow aboriginal subsistence whaling in certain places, but the commissionvoted down this proposal as not having made a sufficient case for the need forthe hunt. Whaling for scientific purposes is also permitted under thecommission’s rules, and until the 1986 moratorium a variety of nationsincluding the United Statesand Canadaused this provision. Recently, only Icelandand Japanhave done lethal research. Japanruns the most extensive program, according to the IWC summary, killing 551Antarctic minke whales in 2007 plus 357 whales of other species. Under the commission’s current rules, nations submit theirscientific plans for review but do not need to implement any recommendations.The commission is working on changing the way these permit proposals arereviewed. The commission statement released June 27 said the meetingconcluded successfully. What the impact of this year’s reducedvoting will be depends on who’s talking. “The International Whaling Commission took small proceduralsteps at the Santiago meeting but now faces aclimb as big and steep as the Andes,” saysPatrick Ramage of the International Fund for Animal Welfare.

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