Cetacean Society International

Whales Alive!

Vol. VI No. 1 January 1997

News and Action Notes

Canadian Bowhead Whales: After Canada permitted the killing of two bowhead whales by Inuits this summer, the U.S. formally certified Canada on December 12th for "whaling activities that diminish the effectiveness of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) conservation programme". These welcome words will have little impact unless, under the provisions of the Pelly Amendment, President Clinton decides by February 10th to selectively ban the import of fish products from Canada as a result of the certification. Canada has replied that they will complain to the World Trade Organization if this happens, but you know that nothing will happen unless you and many others write to the President and request that he act on this. If you don't act he certainly won't, and Canada will get away with this travesty. Please write to President Clinton, the White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, DC 20500, or call in your request to 202-456-1111.

Russian Bowhead Whales: Russian authorities have also decided to permit the aboriginal Chukotka Inuit to catch 2 bowhead whales this year. The IWC had set a 1995 to 1998 quota of 204 Bering-Chukchi-Beaufort Seas bowheads landed, but this quota is claimed by the USA because the quota is calculated on the needs of the Alaskan whaling communities for whale meat. Russia also has an annual quota of 140 gray whales but only (sic) 85 of these were taken last year, with the meat used by fox farms.

IWC Commissioners Meeting: The IWC Commissioners are meeting informally in Grenada in January, with an agenda of items that some Commissioners have urged be addressed, and others would prefer not to, including aboriginal subsistence whaling and its management, trade issues in whale products, small cetaceans, the Revised Management Scheme, and a vision of the Convention and Commission in 2015. We wish the Commissioners well. Most groups like CSI are concerned that the IWC may not survive until 2015, and we are preparing for another cantankerous, pivotal IWC meeting in 1997. Major efforts are underway to allow commercial whaling, expand small-type coastal whaling, redefine aboriginal subsistence whaling, and increase the number of whaling countries. Meanwhile, Australia has urged President Clinton to work for a permanent global whaling ban, criticized Norway for increasing its 1997 commercial catch limit to 580 minke whales from a 1996 self-made quota of 425, and, along with Britain, called on Japan to end its "scientific" whaling. Norway is also trying, against much opposition, to downlist the minke from Appendix 1 of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), which would then permit a legal commercial trade of whale meat. Japan may be considering the same effort for other minke stocks, and Bryde's and gray whales. Five Japanese whaling vessels left for Antarctica in November, determined to kill 400 minkes before April. If the CITES downlisting succeeds, Japan will no longer have to say such kills are for research. Yes, there's more, but the point is that the war's not over.

North Atlantic Right Whale: For several years the North Atlantic right whale population has been documented at about 300 individuals. Many have pointed out the incredible vulnerability of this incredible creature, including CSI's scientific advisor Dr. Stormy Mayo. A recent flurry of official efforts include increased research, appointed teams of specialists, and rules such as a 300 yard approach limit on boats. Lobster and gillnet fishing will also have major restrictions imposed on gear and fishing grounds. CSI recognizes the extraordinary impact of these measures on many, many people, and the view that it all may be too little and too late, but we applaud all who are committed to keep this whale population from vanishing.

ACCOBAMS: An intergovernmental meeting was held in the Principality of Monaco from 19 to 24 November 1996 for the purpose of negotiating the "Agreement on the Conservation of Cetaceans of the Black Sea, Mediterranean Sea and Contiguous Atlantic Area" (ACCOBAMS), which was signed on 24 November. The Agreement represents a significant step toward cetacean conservation in one of the most problematic regions of the world's oceans, with a long tradition for human encroachment on the marine environment. The Agreement calls for an end to any deliberate taking of cetaceans, and for cooperation to create and maintain a network of protected areas to conserve cetaceans. Seventeen states, in addition to the European Community, were represented: Albania, Croatia, Cyprus, France, Georgia, Greece, Israel, Italy, Monaco, Morocco, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Syrian Arab Republic, Tunisia, Turkey, and Ukraine. Representatives of several other states plus intergovernmental and non- governmental organizations also attended the meeting as observers. Unlike its sister Agreement ASCOBANS (Agreement on the Conservation of Small Cetaceans of the Baltic and North Seas), ACCOBAMS applies to all cetaceans, large and small.

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