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Humpback whale underwater

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Minke whale © Ursula Tscherter - ORES

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Boto © Fernando Trujillo

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Orcas at the seabed

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The IWC Scientific Committee gets underway

The International Whaling Commission’s (IWC) Scientific Committee’s annual meeting has begun today, in Bled, Slovenia. The meeting is scheduled to carry on from now until the 24th of this month.

This meeting of the Scientific Committee is taking place in the shadow of the International Court of Justice’s (ICJ) ruling against Japan‘s commercial whaling in Antarctica.

Now, one thing you have to realise is that the Scientific Committee is not an independent body. Well not for everyone that is.

Some countries are happy to send their scientists to debate scientific issues with a view to getting the best possible scientific advice back for consideration at the plenary meeting of the decision making body, the Commission, when it meets later in the year. However, others, the whalers in this case, see the Scientific Committee as a battleground where they can push through their agenda to deliver themselves commercial whaling quotas and to stop any conservation efforts from progressing.

Japan, Norway, Iceland and their ‘allies’ have consistently tried to use the Scientific Committee to stop any progressive steps for whale and dolphin conservation, opposing all discussion of establishing sanctuaries, all debate on small cetaceans and generally any measure that does not involve work on generating future catch quotas for them to exploit.

One measure that the Scientific Committee would normally review would be reports submitted on so-called ‘scientific whaling’. Indeed, this year they were scheduled to discuss the results of Japan’s JARPA II whaling in Antarctica.

However, this very whaling has now been condemned by the ICJ as commercial whaling and not Article VIII (scientific whaling). So should the IWC Scientific Committee review this whaling as anything but commercial whaling?

It seems Japan would still like to have all that taxpayer-wasted money that they appropriated for spending on their whaling in Antarctica reviewed with the hope of salvaging something from what is now clearly understood to be illegal whaling.

WDC believes that the Scientific Committee should defer any discussion of Japan’s illegal whaling until the Commission can meet and decide how to deal with this pirate whaling and the guidance of the ICJ.

WDC has been working with our colleagues at Client Earth to develop some guidance on the implications of the ICJ ruling, which is also applicable to the specialists sent to the IWC Scientific Committee. Both WDC and CE believe that the decision that condemned Japan’s Antarctic whaling is also applicable to their so-called ‘scientific’ whaling in the North Pacific, and Japan should cease all such whaling immediately.

Australia has already stated that it believes that the Scientific Committee should not be reviewing pirate whaling. It will be interesting to see who is arguing for whale conservation in the Scientific Committee and who is more interested in seeing success for Japan’s agenda of ever-increasing whale slaughter.