Florianópolis, Brazil, 14th September 2018. The last day of the Meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) saw the long-awaited discussion about the package proposal submitted by the government of Japan called “A way forward”. The controversial proposal is an initiative to undermine the more than 30 year-old ban on whaling and seeks phasing in the resumption of commercial whaling. The IWC clearly rejected Japan’s proposal today.

The Japanese proposal contained specific elements, including the establishment of a ‘Sustainable Whaling Committee’ within the IWC, a ‘Diplomatic Conference of Contracting Governments’ in order to amend the Convention, and legalising commercial whale hunts by allowing ‘sustainable’ catch numbers for whale stocks. However, the proposal did not include any kind of compliance and enforcement regime, nor the removal of governments’ rights to issue special permits for research purposes. Japan had sought a consensus decision on both parts of the proposal package (Resolution and Schedule Amendment).

“Japan’s initiative defines the strategy of the pro-whaling countries to achieve one category of ‘sustainable whaling’ which is determined solely by the technical question of whether it is sustainable and not whether there is any justification or need. OceanCare fundamentally opposed this proposal”, says Nicolas Entrup, spokesperson for OceanCare. “This clearly is anything but a way forward, and rather intended to keep the Commission in a time trap”.

The Japanese proposal had been sharply criticised by many governments from around the world, including EU Member States, the group of Latin American countries, India, New Zealand and Australia, as well as the conservation community for a variety of reasons. The diverging views and fundamentally opposing positions guided the discussion about the proposal, against the backdrop of the looming threat that Japan might otherwise leave the IWC.

The result: 41 member states rejected the proposal, 27 voted in favour and 2 abstained.

“Resuming to grant commercial whaling quotas would consequently also lead to a removal of the international trade ban in products from those whale species, as both conservation instruments – the whaling ban and the trade ban – are interlinked. We cannot allow opening Pandora’s box to see whales killed in even higher numbers while being so close to phase out this unnecessary and cruel activity. We are relieved that the IWC today prevented this dangerous blow to the moratorium”, Entrup concludes.