How Did the IWC Meeting About Legalizing Whaling of Endangered Species Turn Out?


Updates on the International Whaling Committee decision about legalizing whaling of endangered species. Some organizations see the decision as a (temporary) win, some see it as a big failure.

We wrote a few articles leading up to a major International Whaling Commission (IWC) meeting that was supposed to involve a vote on whether or not to legalize whaling of endangered species with set quotas for certain countries (since the whaling was happening anyway).

The result of the meeting was clear (in that no action was taken), but the reactions by leading environmental organizations and media were mixed.

The IWC, deciding not to vote on the topic did a couple things: 1) it it didn’t give explicit support to whaling of endangered species, but 2) it didn’t offer up any real solutions to stop the whaling of these magnificent, endangered creatures.

World Wildlife Fund Calls the IWC Meeting a Disaster

The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) was quite unhappy with this result. “WWF is extremely disappointed with the progress of this meeting,” said Wendy Elliott, WWF International Species Manager. “A compromise solution which brings illegal whaling under the control of the IWC was clearly needed, and governments at this meeting failed to find a way forward. Once again, they have put politics before science.” Furthermore, Wendy said, “This brings into question the integrity of the Commission and its ability to make meaningful decisions that benefit whale conservation.”

The WWF, along with many others, was also upset that the IWC meeting turned into a closed meeting, closing out the ears of the public:

The unprecedented decision to start discussions at this year’s IWC behind closed doors is fundamentally unacceptable. The issues discussed at the IWC are of enormous public interest.

We already had two years of closed doors negotiations leading up to this point, and now is the moment to open up a transparent and honest discussion. This could be the most important meeting for the IWC since the moratorium was agreed to in 1982 and the decision to exclude the civil society and media is a scandal.

The IWC also didn’t let NGO representatives speak until late in the meeting.

Care2 and Avaaz Consider the Meeting Result a Great Success

On the flip side from the WWF, Care2 wrote:

When reports surfaced of United States support for a plan to reopen commercial whaling after more than twenty years, many of you sprang into action. In joining efforts with IFAW, Greenpeace and WSPA in the fight against whaling worldwide, five petitions featured on Care2 gathered more than 110,000 signatures in the last year.

And it certainly paid off!

And Avaaz, in an email to its members, wrote:

We did it! The proposal to legalise whale killing went down in flames in Morocco — and our campaign helped to tip the balance.

In a few short weeks, we built the biggest whale-saving petition in history, signed by an extraordinary 1.2 million of us worldwide, and delivered it directly to key delegates at the International Whaling Commission meeting. In the end, the 24 year old whaling ban was upheld.

The pro-whaling lobby tried to use political favours to win a so called ‘compromise’ that amounts to a quota for hunting whales, but as tension grew in the closed-door talks, our massive petition became a top story on the BBC’s world news, and we worked with friendly negotiators and other allies to put pressure where it was most needed and draw greater global attention.

To see highlights of this victory and help take our campaigning together to the next level, click here now:

Care2 and Avaaz still recognize that a lot needs to be done, though.

Avaaz writes:

But winning this battle won’t guarantee the whales’ safety yet — Japan’s “scientific” whaling fleet is already sailing out of harbour through IWC loopholes to kill hundreds of whales.

To win for good, we’ll need to campaign to strengthen and reform the IWC, and to mobilise in countries with pro-whaling governments like Japan — where the Cabinet knows Avaaz and we have changed environmental policy in the past.

We will keep you updated on this story as it progresses, but if you want to help protect the whales, consider joining Avaaz and donating to them or another such organization.

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Photo Credit: nestor galina via flickr

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