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Japan’s strategy is a simple one – get around the IWC Commission

For many years we have been concerned that Japan has been trying to bypass the IWC Commission, the actual decision making body, and seek to load the Scientific Committee with it’s own scientists and invited friends, – and then rely on their support for its expanding commercial whaling programmes.

Greenland and Denmark are currently trying to justify Greenland’s demands with threats to leave the IWC if its does not get what it wants. They are also using Japan’s argument which is that if the ‘Scientific Committee says its okay to kill whales, then its okay to kill whales’.

What should be remembered is that scientists are human beings and as political as anyone else. Please dont get me wrong, the IWC Scientific Committee has a lot of respected and conciencious scientists who are trying to give the best advice they can in pursuing whale and dolphin conservation. They seek to debate and test scientific ideas within the IWC, and, as they should be, these debates can be rigorous and robust.

We should however, recognise that some scientists are paid or supported to attend the IWC by their Governments and are expected to pursue a strategy that is in ‘the national interest’, -especially those from the countries that still have whaling industries who simply see whales and dolphins as a resource to exploit. 

The IWC has never simply accepted what the Scientific Committee has recomended or reported. Indeed, the Commission has often been able to bring a different perspective to the advice that the Committee can offer, including representing what their publics want to see happen.

It now seems that this is what is at stake at the ICJ, that is, whether the IWC is bound by the decisions of the unelected Scientific Committee (and open to the politics of instruction) or the decisions of the Commission (which, of course has its own politics, but) which is subject to a democratic reckoning by our publics.

On a day when the USA is celebrating it’s Independence Day, lets hope that we are not seeing the whaling debate fall under a new form of  ‘economic and scientific imperialism’ pursued by the remaining whaling industries.