Whaling for "Scientific Research"

By Michael Edmonds 13/07/2012 3

I’m sure many people are, like myself, happy that South Korea has decided it will not be carrying out whaling for “scientific research.”

Scientific research has been used by a number of nations to justify whaling, however, has anyone

1) seen such research published in a scientific journal?

2) seen an explanation of what the research is trying to find out?

I suspect not.

I find offensive that “science” is used as a justification for killing such incredible creatures, when it is patently obvious this is not why they are being killed.

3 Responses to “Whaling for "Scientific Research"”

  • Hmm

    Ok, well scientific reports are submitted to the IWC on a regular basis. Information on diet (e.g. fish consumption in the S Pacific amongst minkes), development and animal health are collected this way. We used to get a lot of this information from whale-strandings, but now that we try to rescue them instead. So that sort of data is now a lot more limited.

    Some of this data can be obtained from non-lethal sources. But not all of it.

    It’s difficult not to be cynical about the motives of the different parties on whaling. I think the main point is that Japan’s program is both scientific and commercial. That seems to suit everybody. It’s a good way to distract us from the conservation failures we’re producing for cetaceans.

    We vote to allow hundreds of threatened whales (like bowheads) be killed. In the last two decades we’ve allowed hundreds of our own threatened dolphins and sea-lions be killed by the fishing industry. But we don’t apply the same standards to the killing of the tiniest fraction of the common minke.

    The most endangered cetaceans remain the various river dolphins in Asia and S America. The Chinese baiji is already extinct. But pro-conservation countries (and sadly, many large environmental NGOs) ignore these. One of the largest sponsors of the baiji recovery was Budweiser. Greenpeace was nowhere to be seen. What sort of reasoning leads you to devote most of your cetacean conservation resources to protecting a common species over endangered? Why is it up to a beer-brewing company to come to the rescue of these endangered dolphins?

  • Thanks Brendan, your post adds some new and very interesting information. The politics behind some of the decisions you mention is both surprising and disappointing

  • I don’t think anyone comes out of the IWC looking particularly good. Sadly NZ isn’t an exception to that. I’m not even convinced what we’ve done has helped whales at all.

    Nobody seems to ask the basic question of why Japan does scientific whaling, and other whaling countries (Canada, the USA, Norway, Iceland) do commercial whaling. And a lot of that is the politics of the IWC.

    The basic story is that the IWC got stacked with anti-whaling countries. That meant the 5 year moratorium on whaling (in mid-1980s) got passed. Note, this wasn’t a ban. It was sold as a temporary measure to allow a better assessment of the stocks. This vote was passed over the objection of the scientific committee of the IWC.

    The immediate response were that Canada withdrew from the IWC (so no IWC measures, including whale sanctuaries or quotas have any force on Canada). Japan, Norway and Iceland took out reservations. Which means the moratorium had no means to prevent commercial whaling by these countries (& why Norway continues to do so).

    That we try to represent this moratorium as some kind of global ban on commercial whaling is tragically awry. It was limited in scope and limited to those IWC members who assented to it.

    Towards the end of the moratorium, Japan presumed that the population data would support a resumption of commercial whaling. Understanding that the reservations they (and Norway etc) had undertaken was a voting obstacle, they withdrew their reservation. Japan’s position was that the population data made their case.

    What they didn’t count on, was that the anti-whaling members were willing to deny the science to perpetuate the moratorium. So in principle, Japan was screwed. They no longer had the fallback position of the reservation. They’d either have to leave the IWC (like Canada) or find a loophole.

    The two options were aboriginal permits or scientific. Japan has never been able to get aboriginal. The US gets them as a kind of compensation for impoverishing their traditional coastal communities & their appalling health outcomes. So, it’s like a kind of reward that’s paid in the blood of whales. Japan hasn’t impoverished their coastal communities, so don’t qualify.

    So, they use scientific permits. Which given their deep history in the IWC, practically mandate the whale meat is sold after the scientific data is collected. Also any IWC sanctuaries don’t apply to scientific permits (but would to commercial…go figure).

    The perverse effect of all of this, is that we’ve turned conservation issue now, into a political one. nearly every whaling country stopped because the economics doesn’t work. Japan has to subsidise their fleet. And I suspect to a large extent, the political will to do so, exists because we’ve turned this issue into a problem of ‘face’. Bowing into the pressure from anti-whaling countries is not political palatable.