New Zealand Whaling Commissioner — Whaling Moratorium Likely to Be Rescinded Soon

New Zealand’s representative to the International Whaling Commission, Sir Geoffrey Palmer, gave a speech in March in which he predicted that the moratorium on commercial whaling is likely to be reversed sometime in the next few years.

In an interview on New Zealand Radio, Palmer didn’t really say anything that hasn’t become obvious over the past few years. Those nations that want to re-start whaling have done an excellent job of recruiting other pro-whaling countries to join (often providing said countries with economic incentives to side with the pro-whaling forces). As Palmer notes,

They [IWC nations] adopted a moratorium on commercial whaling in 1982 and it came into force in 1986. Since that time, most New Zealanders, and I think many people around the world, have thought, well, there are not going to be anymore whales killed by commercial whaling. That position is now under threat. There is going on in the International Whaling Commission, a concerted effort to come up with a plan to allow commercial whaling to resume. It is going to be very, very difficult indeed. There are meetings going on. There is one in Copenhagen at the end of the month that I am going to. There is another is Korea in the middle of June which will be a very important meeting to determine where this effort is going.

There are a number of nations who have joined the International Whaling Commission in recent times who are in favor of a resumption of commercial whaling. For the first time, the majority is under threat. That is to say, the majority of the nations who belong to the International Whaling Commission do not want a resumption of commercial whaling, and that majority looks to be under threat. On my calculations, it seems that those who favor whaling now may have a majority of about two. Now of course to bring about a resumption of commercial whaling, you need a majority of 75 percent. But having a simple majority will change the whole philosophical approachÂ…

Palmer also noted that the IWC currently has almost no enforcement ability,

Enforcement by the Commission in relation to scientific whaling is impossible because of the provisions of the Treaty. But the enforcement mechanisms of the Treaty in relation to the rest of the activities of the Commission are also exceedingly weak as you state. They are weak because there is no effective way of actually enforcing the provisions of this Convention to see they are complied with.

The only thing keeping Japan and other countries from openly restarting commercial whaling today is the public relations hit they would take for breaching the moratorium. That lack of enforcement is going to be a major problem if and when commercial whaling resumes and it comes time to set enforceable quota limits.


Whaling moratorium likely to be dumped, New Zealand official warns. Associated Press, March 15, 2005.

Linda Clark Interview with Sir Geoffrey Palmer. March 16, 2005.

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