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The future of whaling

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Policy

Whale

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The Australian Government has submitted a proposal to the International Whaling Commission, calling for a ban on whaling in the Southern Ocean and a complete end to 'scientific' whaling practices.

The submission comes hot on the heels of a draft compromise on whaling put forward by an International Whaling Commission (IWC) working group earlier this week, which, though containing some positive measures, would see commercial whaling reintroduced on a limited basis and Japan able to continue hunting in the Antarctic.

Since 1986 a moratorium on all commercial whaling activities has been in place, yet some countries have long utilised loopholes to continue the activity, such as the exemption covering whaling for scientific research used by Japan. These loopholes have allowed for some 2,000 whales to be killed each year despite the ban.

The IWC draft compromise - aimed at unlocking the stalled negotiation process between countries opposed to whaling and those that support it - would effectively see an end to the original moratorium. It proposes to curb escalating whaling activities by closing loopholes and bringing all whaling activities under the IWC's control. It would expressly suspend whaling under the guise of scientific research - in exchange for establishing set whaling quotas over the next decade.

It's a move that would set a dangerous precedent, said Rob Nicoll, WWF-Australia's Antarctic and Southern Ocean Initiative Manager, and one that the international community must reject.

"What we need is to eliminate all whaling in the Southern Ocean, including Japanese commercial whaling thinly disguised as 'scientific research'. But what we have now is a deal which could make it even easier for Japan to continue taking whales in this ecologically unique place," he said in a statement earlier this week.
Nicoll said as well that the IWC's recommendations could potentially lead to the endorsement of arbitrary quotas, which haven't yet had proper scientific review.

With the IWC's proposal drawing ire, conservation groups set their sights on the actions of the Australian Government to curtail whaling.

"Whale conservation, not whale hunting is the future of the IWC and the Australian Government must oppose any moves to legitimise commercial whaling and take action, through the international courts if need be, to end so-called scientific whaling," said Director of the Australian Marine Conservation Society, Darren Kindleysides.

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