Whaling Shock — Japan Paid Solomon Islands for IWC Vote

Former Solomon Islands whaling officials revealed the biggest non-secret about the annual International Whaling Commission meetings — Japan is paying some countries to vote to overturn the moratorium on commercial whaling.

Former Solomon Islands IWC Commissioner Albert Wata told ABC’s Four Corners,

Yes, the Japanese pay the government subscriptions. They support the delegations tot the meetings in terms of meeting air fares and per diem.

Solomon Islands Fisheries Minister Nelson Kile told the program that Japan paid the Solomons membership fees in the IWC,

Yes they do (pay the fees). I’m not really sure but probably for 10 years I think.

So far, though, Japan’s efforts have yet to pay off. Its efforts to overturn the moratorium again failed earlier this year at the 2005 meeting of the IWC.


Japan ‘brought Solomons whaling votes’. Associated Press, July 18, 2005.

Japan Reportedly Set to Expand Number of Whales Species It Hunts for ‘Scientific’ Purposes

In April, the Japanese press claimed that along with plans to increase the number of minke whales it kills annually, it plans to begin taking humpback and fin whales, species which it has not hunted since the International Whaling Commission’s moratorium on commercial whale hunting went into effect in 1986.

Along with minke whales, Japan currently hunts sei whales, sperm whales and Bryde’s whales as part of a limited scientific research hunting it is allowed to cull without being in violation of the commercial hunting moratorium.

According to Kyodo news agency, Japan will submit a whaling plan to the IWC ahead of its meeting this summer in which it outlines plans to almost double its current take of 440 minke whales, as well as add around 10 humpback and 10 fin whales.

An unidentified Japan Fisheries Agency official would not comment on the veracity of the report, but did tell Reuters,

However, it has been recorded that the populations of the humpback and fin whales in Antarctica are increasing. Nobody disputes this.

. . .

We always maintain that we will discuss these things scientifically, but with whales, it quickly grows emotional.

This is clearly a ploy on the part of Japan to ratchet up the rhetoric in favor of eliminating the commercial moratorium on whaling ahead of the IWC’s next meeting. Currently the moratorium is hanging on by a thread, barely surviving recent efforts by Japan and Norway to return to regulated commercial hunting of whales.


Reports: Japan to Expand Whale Hunt to New Species. Elaine Lies, Reuters, April 12, 2005.

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.

Study Calls for End to Ban on Commercial Whale Hunting

A study published in the journal Science in January called for an end to the 19-year-old ban on commercial whaling.

The International Whaling Commission asked biologists Leah Gerber of Arizona State University, David Hyrenbach of Duke University, and Mark Zacharias of the University of Victoria to determine whether or not existing whale sanctuaries would be adequate to protect whales if commercial hunting resumed. The three received no funding from any entity for the study, however.

The study looked specifically at the Southern Ocean Sanctuary, which is one of two sanctuaries created by the International Whaling Commission.

The argument the three make in their paper is this: significant numbers of whales in the sanctuaries are already killed under provisions allowing nations to kill whales for scientific study. Moreover, if commercial whaling is not restored, nations could end up taking more whales for scientific purposes than would be ideal for managing the whale population.

The study argues for ending scientific permits and replacing it with a tightly controlled system of commercial whaling that would ban hunting during certain times of the year, such as when whales are breeding. The scientific permit system currently in place has no such restrictions.

Zacharias was quoted by the Canadian Press as saying that the sanctuaries are political rather than scientific in nature and are less than ideal given the reality of ongoing hunting for scientific purposes,

The moratorium has really done its purpose. It has allowed a lot of stock to recover. However, the problem now is that most of the world and the public believe there is no commercial and aboriginal whaling going on, but whaling under scientific permit is continuing and is continuing in the sanctuary.

. . .

We full expect to take a lot of heat for this . . . People are going to say, ‘You’re suggesting that we’re resume global whaling?’ Yes, we are suggesting that, but it’s better than the alternative, which is pretending it doesn’t happen.

I imagine, however, that Zacharias and his fellow researchers will be very popular in Japan.

It will be interesting to see what, if any, this report has on the next IWC meeting when Japan and other nations again attempt to end the commercial whaling moratorium.


Replace ban on whaling, study urges. Steve MacLeod, Canadian Press, January 28, 2005.

Japanese Fisheries Official Says Whaling Is a 'Right'

Masayuki Komatsu, a senior Japanese Fisheries Agency official and delegate to the International Whaling Commission, said in September that whaling is a right and an important part of Japan’s cultural heritage.

Reuters reported that Komatsu told a gathering of journalists,

Eating whale is a key part of Japanese culture. . . . There are so many robust whales stocks, such as minke whales, the sei whale, the Bryde’s whale. . . . Sperm whales are rampant. They may be around twice the number of minke whales.

Komatsu has previously referred to minke whales as “cockroaches of the sea” and explained to his statement to journalists thusly,

There are two characteristics. One is that there are so many of both of them. And the reproduction rate for those two animals is very rapid. That’s why I said a minke whale is like a cockroach.

Komatsu noted that the Japanese government has already commissioned studies on what the impact would be if Japan decided to abandon the International Whaling Commission which so far has refused Japanese efforts to overturn the two decade ban on commercial whaling, but that no decision had been made yet on whether Japan would withdraw from the organization if it should again fail to overturn the ban at the 2005 IWC meeting.


Japan says whaling a right. Elaine Lies, Reuters, September 15, 2004.

Norway Wants to Increase Minke Whale Catch

In mid-May, Norway once again began its annual minke whale hunt, setting a quota of 670 whales to be killed through the end of August. But by 2006 the quota could be almost tripled to 1,800 whales, and may eventually expand to other species of whale.

In late May the Norwegian Parliament passed a resolution calling for an increase in the quota of minke whales to 1,800, and the Norwegian fisheries minister told the BBC that his country also wanted to begin using satellite transmitters to estimate the population size of other species.

Rune Frovik, a representative of Norway’s pro-whaling High Northern Alliance, told the BBC,

The resolution does leave some room for interpretation, though it’s pretty clear what Parliament wants, and the government will have to deliver.

We think the minke quota could be up to 1,800 by 2006. It’s not clear whether the scientific whaling being suggested should be lethal or non-lethal, but I don’t think the idea of killing whales is ruled out.

The proposal appears to apply in principle to virtually any species except bowheads and blue whales, though in practice I think the government is more interested in assessing stocks of fins, humpbacks, pilot whales and several dolphins.

According to the International Whaling Commission, about 1,400 whales are killed annually between Japan, Iceland and Norway. Increasing the quota would put that number over 2,500, and it would probably rise even further if Japan and Iceland decide, as they seem increasingly likely to do, to increase the number of whales they kill.

This proposal should add even more fireworks to the IWC’s annual meeting this July.


Norway seeks tripled whale catch. Alex Kirby, BBC News, May 28, 2004.