Human Interaction

Whale Wars Aboriginal Whaling a Double Standard?

posted: 05/15/12

DR. CHARLOTTE EPSTEIN: "The term 'aboriginal whaling' was a category that was invented in the late 1970s and was put forward in the IWC to allow for a small quota of whales that could be caught by people who relied on it for their subsistence and had been relying on it for a long time."

DR. BILL HOGARTH: "Now you realize that there's basically two types — or several types — of whaling that takes place that are all authorized by the IWC. [One of them is] aboriginal subsistence whaling. U.S. is a whaling nation when it comes to aboriginals or Eskimos. So is Russia, Greenland and St. Vincent. And Grenadines have aboriginals.

"If it wasn't for whale meat, [the aboriginals'] way of life would go by the board and they would have to do something else, so to speak. And that would be very tough in the environment they live in. But it's a cultural thing to a lot of countries. They've eaten whale meat for thousands and thousands of years. It's been something ... the people have been used to and have done."

DR. CHARLOTTE EPSTEIN: "The problem from the perspective of the Japanese is that it was given to aboriginal communities, which exist specifically in the United States, Australia and New Zealand. The people who whaled in Japan had been whaling for a long time but were not aboriginal in the sense that they didn't belong to a different ethnicity. So they couldn't claim this term for themselves."

DR. BILL HOGARTH: "I think Japan, for one, and some of its allies will be very clear and very quick to tell you they think that this is maybe a double standard — that aboriginals can take whales but that they're not allowed to take whales, say, for their coastal communities. They've had this whale meat for consumption for a number of years, so to them it is a sustainability issue. It's whale versus — as they told me one day — bluefin tuna or, you know, other protein in the ocean. To them it's that type of thing.

"But it's more than that to a lot of people, and to the American public and others. Whales are different, put on a different pedestal — a different standard, so to speak. And that's made it, I think, much more difficult to deal with due to the public perception and the issue that you're dealing with."

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