Iceland's Membership in IWC Rejected; Threatens to Resume Whale Hunts

This year’s meeting of the 56-year-old International Whaling Commission started with a bang when the 48-country commission voted to deny Iceland membership. Iceland’s delegation responded by walking out of the meeting and threatening to resume commercial whaling with or without IWC approval.

Iceland was a member of the IWC until 1992 when its delegates pulled out of a meeting due to the IWC’s anti-whaling stance. Since then it has been relegated to having observer status.

It has been kept out of the IWC for one reason — if Iceland is admitted, pro-whaling countries would likely have enough votes to open discussion about lifting the ban on commercial whaling. Anti-whaling countries have demanded that Iceland accept the ban on whaling as a precondition for rejoining the IWC.

Asked about the possibility of his country resuming commercial whaling, Iceland Whaling Commissioner Stefan Asmundsson said, “From the political point of view, it is much better to do it within the framework of the international organization. We were hoping to do this within the IWC.”

The IWC also rejected Japan’s request to kill an addition 50 whales annually for research purposes. On the other hand, pro-whaling nations failed in their attempts to create new whale sanctuaries in the South Pacific and South Atlantic, which drew the ire of British Fisheries minister Elliot Morley who said,

There’s no doubt whale-watching eclipses the whaling industry. . . . [Japan’s harvesting of whales is] the kind of unstable approach to whaling which threatens to collapse this whole enterprise. Particularly when countries like Japan treat science with such contempt.

Japan threatened to remove Japanese scientists from the IWC’s scientific committee after losing the vote to harvest more whales.


Iceland hints it may hunt whales as summit falters. Richard Lloyd Parry, The Independent (London), May 22, 2002.

Iceland quits whaling conference: Country threatens to resume hunt. Associated Press, May 21, 2002.

The Other World Cup Meat Controversy

The controversy over dog meat in South Korea has garnered a fair bit of attention ahead of the start of the 2002 World Cup, but there is another meat controversy involving the other country that will host the Cup, Japan. In this case, it is animal rights activists trying to pressure British football players into signing a pledge not to eat any whale meat while they are in Japan.

Japan kills more than 600 whales annually for what it claims are research purposes, but most of the whales end up being served in Japanese restaurants (and Japan has made no secret of its desire to outright resume commercial whaling). In fact, although it still lacks the votes on the International WHaling Commission to push through a resumption of commercial whaling, Japan did recently announce that it will start hunting sei whales this year after a 26 year hiatus.

The International Fund for Animal Welfare recently issued a press release calling for British athletes not to eat whale meat while they are in Japan. In the press release, IFAW UK director Phyllis Campbell-McRae said,

We’re asking for their assurance that they won’t eat whale meat during their stay in Japan. Each player is invited to sign and return a form pledging ‘I won’t be eating whale at the World Cup’ in support of IFAW’s campaign against Japan’s killing of hundreds of whales each year.


Nations Condemn Japan Whaling Plans. Associated Press, May 7, 2002.

England team urged to ‘stay on side’ for the whales during the 2002 FIFA World Cup. International Fund for Animal Welfare, Press Release, May 7, 2002.

Judge Issues Temporary Restraining Order in Makah Whale Hunt Dispute

A federal judge granted a 10-day restraining order barring the Makah Indians from hunting any gray whales pending a May 15 hearing on the matter.

At that hearing, U.S. District Judge Franklin D. Burgess will hear arguments from The Fund for Animals on their request for a preliminary injunction barring the Makah whale hunt until a lawsuit it has filed has been settled one way or the other.

Under the provisions of a treaty the Makah signed with the United States in 1855, the Makah retain rights to hunt whales. After the gray whale was removed from the Endangered Species List in 1994, the Makah sought to resume hunting them.

In 1999, they resumed hunting and managed to kill a whale. The tribe also hunted in 2000, but did not manage to kill any whales.

In 2001, Makah whale hunting was suspended for a year after anti-whaling forces successfully sued and a court ordered the National Marine Fisheries Service to draw up a study of the environmental impact of the limited Makah whale hunt. That initial success turned into a nightmare for anti-whaling forces when the report not only said that hunting five whales would not impact the population of 26,000 gray whales, but also extended the area where the Makah could hunt.

The Fund for Animals and other groups are now challenging that report in court, arguing that the study was not done properly.


Federal judge grants temporary restraining order against whale hunt. Elizabeth Murtaugh, Associated Press, May 4, 2002.

Makah ordered not to whale for at least 10 days. KomoTV.Com, May 3, 2002.

Makah Might Receive Quota-Free Whaling

Back in July the Makah tribe won an important victory when the National Marine Fisheries Service released the results of a study of the gray whale population — a study which was conducted only because of a successful lawsuit by anti-whaling opponents. While anti-whaling activists hoped the study would find a smaller-than-expected gray whale population, what it found was the species population was larger than it had been since commercial whaling began in the 18th century. Now the Fisheries Service is beginning plans to set a new quota for the Makah for 2003-2007, which might end up being no quota at all.

Brian Gorman, a spokesman for the Fisheries Service’s Northwest regional office, said there were four alternatives that would be assessed. The first three alternatives would give the Makah a quota of five whales per year for five years, with the differences between the three alternatives being what, if any, restrictions there would be on the time and place that the whales could be killed.

The fourth alternative being assessed is simply allowing the Makah to hunt without any quota or restrictions at all (and considering the tribe has managed to kill only one whale since it resumed hunting in 1998, it’s not like the tribe is going to be seriously threatening whale numbers).


U.S. sets stage for whaling through ’07. Brenda Hanrahan, Peninsula Daily News, November 27, 2001.

Who Gives a F— about New York When Elephants Are Being Killed?

British boy band Blue logged on to the web site of the British tabloid The Sun to promote their next single which is scheduled for release in the UK in November. Instead, band member Lee Ryan ended up making outrageous statements that the terrorist attacks didn’t deserve the intense media coverage, which should be devote to the plight of animals.

During the web chat, a fan asked why the group’s tour of Singapore had been cancelled. The group had actually been in New York and witnessed the second plane that hit the World Trade Center. After his band mates go on about the horror of watching that, Ryan goes off about elephants and whales:

Lee Ryan – What about whales?

They are ignoring animals that are more important. Animals need saving and that’s more important.

This New York thing is being blown out of proportion.

Simon- Shut up Lee.

Lee – Who gives a f… about New York when elephants are being killed.

Duncan- Shut up.

Lee – I’m not afraid to say this, it has to be said. IÂ’m not afraid to say it and that’s why I’m the outspoken one from the band.

The group’s record label, Virgin Records, apparently raked Ryan over the coals for this obscene statement, and almost immediately an apology was posted on the group’s official web site. A statement attributed to Ryan says,

By now you might have heard about the stupid comments I made the other day to The Sun newspaper.

I just wanted to say to you all how sorry I am, I can’t believe I said it. I didn’t even mean it like that and the second I said it I was like “Oh My God” that isn’t what I meant.

All I can say is that since we got back from New York we have all been asked again and again about our experiences there and, to be honest, what we saw in New York was so bad that I’ve always tried to avoid talking about it.

He didn’t mean it? Give me a break. This has “cover your ass” all over it. Or as The Sun put it, “Lee may have apologized but he is 18, old enough to vote and to know better.”

Don’t worry, though, if Virgin should drop the group or his pop career goes south, he’s always got a career writing editorials for Animal People.


Who give a **** about New York when whales and elephants are dying? Dominic, Mohan, The Sun, October 26, 2001.

Blue chat outrage. Jacqui Swift, The Sun, October 26, 2001.

Statement from Lee. Lee Ryan, PopGoss.Com, October 26, 2001.

PETA: Eat The Whales

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals launched its latest campaign in London over the weekend, urging people to eat more whale meat.

PETA’s Bruce Friedrich showed up at the 23rd International Whaling Commission meeting, where the international ban on whaling was the topic of much heated discussion. Iceland, Japan and Norway want to abandon the ban and threatened to begin commercial whaling with or without international agreement.

Which would be fine with Friedrich who said he would prefer that people converted to vegetarianism, “but meat addicts who won’t try to kick their habit would cause a lot less misery by abandoning their cultural aversion to eating whales.”

According to Friedrich, “If you’re not vegetarian you are responsible for far more suffering and deaths than one Japanese or Norwegian whaler.” Friedrich also suggested that people should stop eating “chicken nuggets and haddock fillets in favor of whale whoppers.”

Anti-whaling groups weren’t amused, with The Times (London) quoting an unnamed whaling opponent as calling the PETA protest an “irresponsible publicity stunt” (which is the best three word summary of PETA I’ve seen yet).

No word on what whaling representatives from Iceland, Japan and Norway thought about PETA’s claims, but at least the Makah will now have PETA in its corner when animal rights activists try to disrupt their upcoming whale hunt.


Outrage at ‘eat whales’ campaign. Chris Bunting, The Times (London), July 23, 2001.

People urged to eat whale meat. Hugh Muir and Peter Gruner, This Is London, July 23, 2001.

Whaling ban under threat. CNN, July 23, 2001.