Originally controlled by whaling nations wanting to protect whale stocks for future hunting purposes, the 88 member states still have numerous delegations that want to get rid of the ban. First and foremost, which is unexpected at first glance, are the African, Caribbean and Asian countries that do not engage in whaling or consume whale products themselves.
International Whaling Commission (IWC)
The IWC was established in 1946 to implement the “International Convention on the Regulation of Whaling”. Since the main concern was maintaining the whale-product trade, it took decades, during which nearly two million whales were slaughtered and some species pushed to the brink of extinction, before the commission issued a trade embargo in 1975 and a commercial fishing moratorium in 1986. With However, the ban has several loopholes: Iceland and Norway can continue to hunt in a legal gray area, as they have expressed reservations about the whaling ban. Illegal whaling, which Japan has practiced since leaving the IWC, is not punishable. And: the ban is not permanent, but it is a “postponement” that must be renegotiated regularly.
The Caribbean nation of Antigua and Barbuda came to the IWC meeting in Slovenia with a proposal that would eventually lead to the lifting of the whaling ban and the legalization of commercial whaling. Meanwhile, the delegation joined Cambodia, Gambia and Guinea in demanding recognition of “sustainable whaling” as a solution to world hunger. However, Nicholas Entrop of the marine conservation organization Ocean Care was no surprise in the states’ apparent enthusiasm for whaling.
Japan’s long arm at IWC
“Although Japan withdrew from the Whaling Commission in 2019, it continues to attempt to regulate the legalization of commercial whaling in the IWC through allies,” says Nicholas Entrop, who attended the annual meeting as an observer. “These are the same people who wrote the same pro-whaling stances for several states years ago.” At Pro Wildlife, another animal rights group, this tactic is referred to as “checkbook diplomacy.”
Biologist and co-founder Sandra Altair, who has also monitored previous IWC conferences, reported that she once watched a Caribbean delegate check his bank account on his laptop before voting for Japan. There are also indications of bribery from the time when Japan was still a member of the IWC.
According to a 2007 report by the Third Millennium Foundation, 28 IWC member states joined the committee on the back of Japanese development aid payments — including landlocked Mali. In 2010, Britain’s Sunday Times photographed several Caribbean and African delegates promising an undercover reporter that they could vote in any way — on the condition that the customer would pay more than what Japan had already put on the table.
Additionally, the delegation’s expenses from Antigua and Barbuda are said to have been paid with a Japanese credit card. Such irregularities have not been detected again since then. But the agenda of the non-whaling camp appears to have not changed. But the strategy is new.
Sustainable whaling against hunger?
Now relevant delegates from the global south are arguing with the global fight for food security. “This is a very sensitive politically and diplomatically,” Entrop said. Who wants to look after countries whose populations are sometimes affected by severe hunger?