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July 03, 2012

Speaking Up for Whales at International Whaling Commission Meeting

IWC 64, the 2012 meeting of the International Whaling Commission, is in full swing in Panama City, Panama, and there is a dedicated HSUS and Humane Society International team working there all week long.

International Whaling Commission 2012 aerial photo
Photo: Jeff Pantukhoff/Spectral Q/Whaleman Foundation
Hundreds of advocates form the shape of a whale to support
the Southern Atlantic Whale Sanctuary proposal.

At Monday’s session, a bloc of Latin American nations proposed a South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary, but it failed to gain the needed three-quarter majority for passage, even as it won with a solid majority of 38 in favor and 21 opposed. As it has done on all nine votes taken on the proposal since 2001, Japan pulled together its “bloc of no” nations to prevent the supermajority.

The proposed sanctuary would encompass the waters of the South Atlantic bounded in the north by the equator, in the west by the Atlantic coast of South America, in the south by the northern limit of the Southern Ocean Sanctuary, and in the east by the coast of Africa and the western boundary of the Indian Ocean Sanctuary. Contiguous with the Southern ocean Whale Sanctuary and the Indian Ocean Whale Sanctuary, it would be the fourth sanctuary declared by the IWC and the third actively in force.

No whaling goes on in these waters at this time, and in this respect the passage of the South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary proposal would be primarily a precautionary measure. However, as part of a seamless web of protected areas, the sanctuary would help to ensure a meaningful sphere of protection for large whales throughout their full life-cycle including their full range of breeding, calving, feeding, and migratory habitats. Sanctuary designations also promote increased investment in research and encourage regulatory measures for human activities such as shipping and fishing, as well as capacity-building for sustainable endeavors such as ecotourism. 

See our infographic on whaling

IWC 64 follows closely upon the release of GEO-5, the Global Environmental Report of the United Nations Environment Program, which explicitly recognizes the IWC as one of a handful of international organizations that have, over time, developed a higher purpose in accordance with changing attitudes. GEO-5 notes, "The [IWC] governance regime for whales has contributed to more sustainable practices and a change in mindsets, allowing a transition from predominantly consumptive exploitation of a natural resource (whaling) to non-consumptive use such as whale watching and related tourism.”

The IWC is just one of the international forums in which we are active on behalf of animals, and it’s an especially challenging arena, one involving longstanding practices, cultural differences, and an archaic framework that we and others have long struggled to change. It also involves the killing of some of the most highly developed mammalian species in existence. That’s why we go, and that’s why we fight.

Please help support our efforts to close the market for whale meat.

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