06/21/2010 - The International Whaling Commission began its most important meeting in decades debating whether to scrap an ineffective 25-year ban on commercial hunting and instead allow for limited whaling under a more enforceable regime.
Though environmental groups say the 1986 moratorium has been one of the most successful animal conservation measures in history, it has failed to prevent Japan, Norway and Iceland from killing hundreds of whales each year in defiance of the commission.
A proposal before the 88-member commission would allow the three countries limited whaling in exchange for removing their rogue status and imposing a 10-year period of international monitoring.
The proposal's author, IWC Chairman Cristian Maquieira, has said it would save about 5,000 whales over 10 years, though he was not attending this week's meeting due to illness.
Allowing for limited hunting might also reduce the harassment by conservationists trying to disrupt whale hunts — sometimes leading to violent clashes at sea.
Within minutes of opening the annual conference, the commission's deputy chairman, Anthony Liverpool, adjourned the open sessions for two days to give pro- and anti-whaling countries a chance to discuss whether a compromise was possible. The suspension of the normal agenda was unprecedented in recent decades, and reflected the contentiousness of the proposal to lift the ban. The meeting ends Friday.
Currently, more than 1,000 whales are killed each year, with nearly 2,000 killed in the peak year of 2006, the Pew Environmental Group said.
"Japan is the key," said Susan Lieberman, director of Pew's whale conservation program. "The question is whether Japan is going to compromise or not."
She said Japan might be coaxed to stop whaling in the southern sanctuary — an expensive and highly subsidized industry — if it won international recognition of its right to hunt whales off its coast.
"If this were purely economic, they wouldn't be whaling in the Antarctic," she said.
Read the full article, Whaling Commission Ponders Suspending Hunting Ban on the Google News' Web site.
Pew is no longer active in this line of work, but for more information, visit the Pew Whale Conservation Project campaign.