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Countries impose tighter regulation of scientific whaling

Portoroz, Slovenia – WEBWIRE
Minke whale
© WWF-Canon
Minke whale © WWF-Canon

The killing of whales as part of scientific research programmes will now be under stricter oversight after a divisive vote by the International Whaling Commission (IWC) today. The decision comes after a judgement by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) in March that ruled previous “scientific” hunts by Japan to be illegal.

“Illegal commercial whaling went on for way too long under the guise of scientific research. Today the IWC made the right decision to close the loophole that allowed Japan’s hunts to continue freely for so many years,” said Aimee Leslie, head of WWF’s delegation at the IWC meeting in Slovenia. “This is a landmark decision that is great news for whale conservation. If respected, it should stop the illegitimate killing of whales in the name of science.”

The resolution, put forward by New Zealand, passed by a simple majority of 35 for and 20 against. Japan and other whaling nations voted against the proposal, which leaves the measures unbinding on them under treaty rules.

Disturbingly, Japan says it will restart its “scientific” whale hunt next year in defiance of the IWC resolution.

“We urge Japan to abide by the decision of the IWC and to refrain from launching more hunts outside of the process set up today,” Leslie said. “If Japan truly wants to advance whale conservation as it says it does, then it should not circumvent these new IWC rules.”

A moratorium prohibiting commercial whaling has been in effect since 1986, but Japan has continued to hunt thousands of whales by claiming that it was conducting scientific research. Today’s resolution gives a larger role to the commission in evaluating the legitimacy of scientific whaling proposals, as requested in the ICJ judgement.

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