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Portorož/Wädenswil, 27 October 2016. On the penultimate day of the 66th conference of parties of the International Whaling Commission (IWC), a majority of member states adopted the proposal by Australia and New Zealand to implement a new procedure for assessing scientific whaling programmes. The IWC hopes that this will give a transparent, independent procedure. Japan as the whaling nation will have an observer status, but shall grant extensive access to the scientific data of the whaling programme. International marine conservation NGO OceanCare welcomes the decision.

Article VIII of the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling (ICRW) allows member states to issue special permits to kill whales for scientific research purposes. Japan has been using this loophole since the ban on commercial whaling entered into force in 1986. The International Court of Justice (ICJ) condemned Japan’s Antarctic whaling programme in March 2014 for its lack of scientific basis. Hence, there was hope that Japan would grasp this opportunity to end its whaling without loss of face. However, on the contrary, the Japanese government developed a new whaling programme for “scientific” purposes. Ignoring the respective rules, Japan not even waited for the assessment of the IWC’s Scientific Committee, but started whaling right away.

“The provision to allow whaling for scientific purposes dates back to the 1940s and is outdated for a long time already. The only consistent and proper solution would be to dispose it”, says Nicolas Entrup, spokesperson for OceanCare at the conference in Slovenia. However, he welcomes today’s decision: “‘Unsatisfactory’ is the only mark I can imagine as a result of this assessment. But it remains an open question to what extent the procedure can be done independently, and if consequences can be effectuated.”

The resolution, which was adopted today by a 34 to 17 majority (with 10 abstentions), will establish a working group commissioned with evaluating scientific whaling programmes in cooperation with the Scientific Committee. The applicant of a programme, in this case Japan, can participate in the working group as an observer. The final appraisal is done by the IWC on the basis of a report prepared by the working group.

OceanCare is represented at the IWC conference in Slovenia by Nicolas Entrup and Fabienne McLellan, who frequently blog their experiences at the conference at oceancare.org/blog

 

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