Political expediency and hunted whales

Whatever one thinks of Julian Assange, founder of Wikileaks, he has done a good thing for whales, those peaceful behemoths of the sea still plundered by Japan, Norway and Iceland.  (We remember that whales, in the 19th century, were the world’s oil wells and pursued nearly to extinction.)  Assange released a classified U. S. department of state document to the Spanish newspaper El Pais, which published its details on January 2, 2011.

Japan was willing to give-up its quota under the guise of science research in exchange for being allowed to hunt whales off its own coast as an offset to phased withdrawal from its controversial Antarctic whaling. Japan also demanded action be taken to curtail the inroads of  the anti-whaling organization, Sea Shepherd, whose vessel Andy Gil was rammed by a Japanese whaling vessel and the crew forced to abandon ship. Specifically, Japan called for the U. S. government to withdraw Sea Shepherd’s tax exempt status.

The “compromise” measure would supposedly save 14,000 whales over a ten year period.  The measure was supported, not only by the Obama administration, but Greenpeace and the World Wildlife Fund.  The measure failed when the Australian government objected.

The International Whaling Commission, which meets annually to set quotas, had been proposing two compromise alternatives: 

1.  to phase out Japan’s whaling in the Antarctic, but allow Japan to commercially hunt whales off its own coast.

2. to allow  Japan to continue its hunts in the Antarctic, provided it adheres to annual limits.

It takes a 75% majority among the 88 nations to effect any changes.  Meeting in Agadir (Morroco) in June 2010, the measures were voted down, led by Australia, the European Union and Latin American delegates.

Consider the fate of one of the world’s most majestic creatures, the Blue Whale, the most massive creature our world has known, with lengths exceeding 100 feet.  Hunted nearly to extinction, it barely survives in the Antarctic.  While the Japanese do not pursue them, they do hunt the fin whale, which reaches 90 feet, weighs 80 tons, and can live up to a century.  They also kill up to 850 minke whales among 100 other species they hunt. Humpback and fin whales are listed as endangered species.  The more plentiful minke whales are
designated as threatened species.  Whale meat is not a staple of the Japanese cultural cuisine.

Much of he Japanese hunt is conducted within the territory of the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary.  Recently, the Australian Federal Court found Japan in contempt of an earlier Australian Federal Court ruling, outlawing it from killing whales within the Australian Antarctic.

The failure to enact, and enforce, meaningful legislation curtailing Japan’s whaling emboldens other countries.  Iceland has announced it will sharply increase its kill to 150 fin whales and 100 minke whales annually through 2013.  Norway continues its own whaling unperturbed.

Political expedience often saves the day, 
with the future left to pay for the indulgence.

Thank you, dear Aussie friends for choosing a better way.

Author: RJ

Retired English prof (Ph. D., UNC), who likes to garden, blog, pursue languages (especially Spanish) and to share in serious discussion on vital issues such as global warming, the role of government, energy alternatives, etc. Am a vegan and, yes, a tree hugger enthusiastically. If you write me, I'll answer.

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