Human Interaction

Whale Wars Is Scientific Whaling a Violation of IWC?

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: "My understanding is that the scientific research provision allows states to undertake whaling for the purpose of scientific research, independent of any quotas that are set.

"Now if you think of when that was originally in place, there would have been no need to abuse the scientific research provision. You would've had some quota, and this was just recognizing that you might undertake an additional amount your own discretion.

"Originally there would've been people who would've conducted scientific research, and there would've been a whaling industry. And most likely the whaling industry did not want the few scientific whales to be counted against their quota.

"The difficulty is this: As we close down the possibility of any quota then the only option remaining this scientific research provision, which appears to give each state own discretion.

"Now, one argument would be that all treaties are to be followed in good faith, and if one is not actually doing it for scientific research — which is a criticism of the Japanese program — then that is a violation of the treaty. Yes, it is in your discretion, but discretion is not license. It is not freedom to do whatever you want. It is circumscribed by some sense of good faith.

"Now the entirely different use is going on today in that there is no quota for whaling. There's a moratorium. Japan's only option is to go under the scientific provision. And there's a question, whether they are doing that in good faith. Is this scientific program they have about science or is it hunting?"

DR. CHARLOTTE EPSTEIN: "Now the fact that [Japan's scientific whaling is] continuing today I would say is probably indeed using a loophole. But a loophole because Japan has its hands tied, having signed up to the moratorium and still wanting to do whaling. So there is this, yes, this one window of opportunity where whaling is allowable. And that's the one that Japan is using."

MORE: Japanese Whalers

More on
Whale Wars