Despite the moratorium, Japan, Norway, and Iceland harpoon around 2,000 whales annually, arguing — with the support of almost half the IWC’s 88 member nations — that many species are “abundant enough” to justify continuing the hunt. Environmentalists fear, rightly, that the new proposal spells disaster for whales; in 007 terminology, it’s a “license to kill.” The letter continues:
In 1986, after whale populations were plundered to near extinction, the IWC declared a ban on commercial whaling. It remains one of the 20th century’s most iconic conservation victories. However, since the ban was enacted, more than 30,000 whales have been killed — most in international whale sanctuary around Antarctica. Why? The Government of Japan claims it kills whales exclusively for research purposes. It’s an outrageous assertion rejected by the scientific community and undermined by the fact that Japan hunts whales on factory ships and sells whale meat commercially. Japan is now rumored to be seeking a new, state-of-the-art $100 million whaling vessel.
Iceland and Norway, emboldened by ongoing negotiations to undo the whaling ban, have recently ramped up their illegal whaling efforts to lock in higher quotas that will be made possible under this new agreement.
Like the situation in the water for whales, the situation inside the IWC is precarious. Conservation-minded countries now find themselves consistently outmanned by Norway, Iceland, and a fifty-person strong Japanese delegation flanked by a steady stream of small island states and landlocked developing countries recruited by the foreign aid to vote lockstep with Japan.
That last point was driven home by the Oscar-winning documentary The Cove, which revealed how Japan allegedly “buys” votes in the IWC, recruiting other nations (Cambodia, Ecuador, Eritrea, Guinea-Bissau, Kiribati, Laos, and the Republic of the Marshall Islands) to its commercial whaling agenda. The consequence is devastation for whales, as Brosnan’s letter describes:
As a result, United States influence inside the IWC has waned. The Government of Japan has remained engaged and aggressive, inside and outside the IWC, in pursuit of its declared objective to hunt more whales.
Faced with this challenge, the Obama administration has apparently decided to sound retreat. Five of the last six meetings to hammer out the final “lift-the-ban” proposal have been held on U.S. soil.
Instead of endorsing this sellout of the world’s whales, the American government must work to end the savagery of commercial whaling forever.
Brosnan doesn’t hesitate to remind the president that he risks breaking a major campaign promise in letting down whales and their supporters. In April of 2008, then-candidate Barack Obama promised, “As president, I will ensure the U.S. provides leadership in enforcing wildlife protection agreements, including strengthening the international ban on commercial whaling. Allowing Japan to continue commercial whaling is unacceptable.” But the proposed deal on the IWC table this week guarantees whaling for the next ten years.
The letter concludes with this impassioned plea:
For more than a decade Japan, Iceland, and Norway have worked harder to keep killing whales than our government has worked to protect them. However, it is not too late the turn the tide. The Obama administration must send a clear signal that it intends to end commercial whaling forever. “Change we can believe in” can then extend beyond our shores to benefit our planet’s great whales. Mr. President, please stay in the fight! Stop the sellout, and save the whales!
It’s a call to action every right-thinking American can get behind. Please sign the petition. Let’s not fail the whales.