2009: Evolving a future of protection for whales

Denmark repeated last year’s request for a catch of 10 humpback whales

Denmark repeated last year’s request for a catch of 10 humpback whales

WSPA and other Whalewatch groups feared that Japan would push its coastal whaling deal through at the 61st annual meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in June. However, we fought hard to ensure that governments would not compromise on cruelty.

In only one month, WSPA led Whalewatch groups in collecting an incredible 70,000 signatures from people calling for countries to reject coastal whaling because it is simply too cruel. Thanks in part to this amazing show of support, many delegates put the brakes on this quick and dangerous deal. Thank you to everyone who joined our campaign and spoke out for whale welfare.

Migrating towards conservation

The IWC remains deadlocked and in disagreement over whaling but have agreed to continue negotiations for another year. Over this time WSPA will be keeping up the pressure on governments and new IWC Chair Cristian Maquieira to make sure that the focus for the future is protecting whales, not whaling.

WSPA praised the Australian government’s generous donation of AU$1.5million to progress the conservation work of the IWC, plus their visionary non-lethal research programme to humanely study whales. This year a resolution was passed on climate change and its effects on cetaceans, following Costa Rica’s presentation of the report of their climate change workshop. The workshop was the result of a united effort by regional and international NGOs and scientists. Costa Rican Minister Rodríguez stressed the importance of reducing the impacts of climate change, and other human activities, on cetaceans and their environment. WSPA also congratulates Belgium for its continued excellent work on global efforts to mitigate against whale-ship collisions.

Countless countries took the floor to promote the value and importance of whale watching industries worldwide and a report released at the meeting showed that 119 countries now have whale watching operations with the industry worth US$2.15 billion worldwide.
All of this excellent work is extremely encouraging, showing that the IWC can evolve into a conservation body, as WSPA and other groups continue to advocate with our 2008 report ‘Time to refocus’.

Australians against cruelty

The whale watching industry is worth US$2.15 billion worldwide

The whale watching industry is worth US$2.15 billion worldwide

© CC Tina Keller

This year the WSPA team was lucky enough to be joined by Olympic gold medallist swimmer Australian Leisel Jones who handed over almost 15,000 signatures to the Australian environment Minister Peter Garrett in a press conference on behalf of Australians who believe there is no humane way to kill whales at sea .

Garrett was in agreement, publicly stating that "Australia is strongly of the view that all whale research must be underpinned by genuine scientific need and must be undertaken in the most humane and ethical way…and should use internationally recognised humane animal experimentation techniques - the three Rs of replace, reduce and refine. Australia's position is clear - we don't believe that is necessary to kill whales to study and understand them."

WSPA thanks Leisel for all of her support, commitment and passion for the protection of whales!

Greenland under fire

Greenland’s whaling came under international scrutiny again. Despite the outgoing Chair, William Hogarth’s efforts to maintain a diplomatic atmosphere in the meeting, Denmark repeated last year’s controversial proposal requesting a catch of 10 humpback whales.

The WSPA team lobbied delegates with evidence from our 2008 undercover film and report on the commercial sale of meat from Greenland’s ‘aboriginal subsistence’ hunts. We also worked closely with the UK government team to persuade the European Union (EU) IWC members to reject the proposal in light of fresh evidence that there is considerable wastage in existing hunts. After securing this opposition from the EU it was agreed that the proposal be put on hold pending an intersessional meeting to address the many problems. WSPA welcomed this decision and will continue to push to ensure that whales are not cruelly killed for profit.

Norwegian groups increase pressure

This year - for the first time ever - the meeting was under close scrutiny from two Norwegian campaigning organisations, WSPA’s partner organisations Dyrebeskyttelsen Norge and NOAH – for dyrs rettigheter.

Our Norwegian colleagues lobbied delegates with a briefing about Norwegian whaling. A new Norwegian opinion poll revealed that only 21 per cent of Norwegians find whale slaughter methods acceptable and only 7 per cent eat whale meat regularly. They also secured a meeting with the Norwegian delegation to explain their concerns and objections to whaling.

An example of change

Until the 1980s Madeira had been a whaling island – today the only shots fired at whales are photographs from tourists enjoying the excellent whale watching opportunities around the coast near Funchal.

Madeira’s example sets an excellent precedent for all whaling countries to follow. WSPA and Whalewatch groups believe it is clear that the only sustainable, humane and economically viable use of whales in the 21st century is well managed whale watching – the whalers’ days are numbered.

But each of the 2,000 whales killed each year by Japan, Norway and Iceland is one whale too many. WSPA will keep fighting these cruel and unnecessary hunts both at the IWC and – even more importantly - in the whaling nations. Our current focus is a public campaign and exhibition in Norway, due to be launched on 14 August 2009 – watch this space!