Cetacean Society International

Whales Alive! - Vol. XVI No. 2 - April 2007


UK Anti-Whaling Initiative

By Dr. Robbins Barstow, CSI Director Emeritus


The United Kingdom has launched a strong drive to recruit new anti-whaling members to the International Whaling Commission. On February 1, 2007, the British Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), issued a high-quality booklet - "Protecting Whales: A Global Responsibility" - illustrated with outstanding color photographs, which it has sent to the governments of countries who are not yet members of the IWC.

The publication has a Foreword with official endorsements by UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and naturalist and broadcaster Sir David Attenborough. Blair affirms: "The UK Government strongly supports the International Whaling Commission's moratorium on commercial whaling. Our policy is to oppose all whaling apart from limited aboriginal subsistence whaling when there is a traditional and nutritional need for whaling and whale meat."

"We urge your government," continues Blair, "to join the UK and the other anti-whaling nations in the International Whaling Commission to ensure that our generation meets its global responsibility to protect whales."

Echoing concerns expressed by the Cetacean Society International and other groups for more than 30 years, Blair adds: "We are concerned that whaling is unacceptably cruel. It is also economically unnecessary. We believe that whale-watching is the only use of whales which is both humane and sustainable." (See references on CSI's web site to the CSI-organized "Global Conference on the Non-Consumptive Utilisation of Cetacean Resources," held in Boston, Massachusetts, 7-11 June, 1983.)

Introducing the UK initiative on February 1, aboard the International Fund for Animal Welfare's marine research vessel, Song of the Whale, now docked in London, British Fisheries Minister Ben Bradshaw said: "Whales are a common heritage and as such the responsibility for their conservation and protection rests with all countries, whether or not they have coastal waters."

The unique political status of whales, dolphins, and porpoises derives from the fact that the overwhelming majority of cetacean species are non-national in range. Unlike land animals, their dwelling spaces are the ocean commons, the seas of the world, which do not belong to any one nation. As recognized in the United Nations Law of the Sea Convention, whales are part of the common heritage of all humankind, and therefore all humans and nations have a stake in their protection for future generations.

Because they are not legally an exclusive resource of any one nation, no one nation can claim a moral right to kill them. The fate of whales must be determined on an international basis, through the established agency of the International Whaling Commission.

As of April 1, 2007, there are 73 nations which are members of the IWC, which is less than half of all the countries in the world belonging to the United Nations. On January 10, 2007, Croatia joined the IWC, and on February 26 Cyprus became a member. Several other countries are considering joining prior to the 2007 Annual Meeting of the IWC in May in Anchorage, Alaska. The European Commission also is encouraging those member states and accession countries that are not now members of the IWC to join.

The CSI commends Tony Blair and the UK for this positive new initiative, and we urge President Bush and the United States to follow his leadership.

(For more information, go to the UK Environment Department's web site: http://www.defra.gov.uk/.)


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