Human Interaction

Whale Wars Is the IWC Pro- or Anti-Whaling?

posted: 05/15/12

Animal Planet presents this feature as a conversation with legal scholars. We draw no conclusions, other than that reasonable legal minds differ on these issues.

DR. DAVID CARON: "[The IWC] was created after the Second World War, in 1946. There had been efforts in the interwar period to deal with whale populations, and I think it's important to realize that the IWC was created for the whaling states. It was meant for the optimal utilization of whales. It was designed to decide by scientific means what was the allowable catch. The goal of the IWC was optimal utilization, on the basis of scientific findings. And then, on the basis of the interest of the fishing nations, to actually set that quota."

DR. TIMOTHY STEPHENS: "The IWC was set up in 1946. It was set up to exploit whales. It was not set up to conserve whales at all. And during the first 40 years or so of the IWC, whale stocks plummeted as a range of whales were overexploited."

DR. DAVID CARON: "And in 1970 there was a push to protect the whales. And slowly that mounted. And really it was 1986 that the composition of the Whaling Commission had changed. What formerly had been an organization only of whaling states was now an organization of whaling states and states concerned about protecting whales. And it was that new combination in '86 that led to the moratorium on whaling.

"[The IWC] is an odd paradox. But most people don't realize that the IWC was built on the voluntary compliance of whale hunting states in their mutual self-interest to preserve the stock for further hunting."

DR. CHARLOTTE EPSTEIN: "So the question of what the objectives of the IWC actually are [...] is one of the tricky one. That's the million dollar question, if you like. Because as the whaling countries see it, they joined an IWC [...] created to manage whaling. That's what the founding charter says, the one written in 1946. And so they see the objective of the IWC as managing whaling — not stopping whaling. [...] The anti-whaling countries, for them the objective is to stop whaling. So obviously you can see that these are incompatible objectives. And that's the problem."

DR. BILL HOGARTH: "Our principles that, you know, it's got to be better for whales. And we maintain the moratorium on commercial whaling — we think that needs to be. We don't think you need to kill all these whales for scientific purposes. You can get scientific data differently. [...] We believe in whale watching. We believe in sanctuaries. We believe in, you know, the aboriginal hunts. But we believe in science. We believe that it all should be a science-based proposition, that science has to dictate what you do. If science would tell us tomorrow that we couldn't take but five whales from an aboriginal standpoint in Alaska, the U.S. would implement that. We would — we will — follow the science. And the science always dictates stuff, so we'll follow that."

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