Thursday, February 15, 2007

Whale hunting discord

Towards 1986, whale hunting was a popular activity performed without any sustainability perspective. This drove to a situation in which the International Whaling Commission (IWC), an international entity created to make sure that whale hunting is regulated in a way that the supply of whales is assured, totally prohibited commercial whaling activities. The only limited exceptions to that measure were scientific hunting, and aboriginal hunting.
Since then, the rules haven't changed. Some countries have been hunting according to the mentioned exceptions, most notably Iceland, Norway (both under the 'aboriginal' justification) and Japan (for 'scientific research').
Given this background, it is curious to see what has happened lately: In a conference held in Tokyo, Japan, pro-whaling countries declared that the IWC has become an organization dedicated to promoting bans on whale hunting rather than regulating it, and they accused such bans of being imperialistic. Moreover, the Japanese threatened to quit their membership to the IWC if the organization's criteria are not reformed.
What the Japanese claim is that whaling is part of their national traditions, and the amount of certain whale species in the oceans have recovered enough to restore commercial hunting. However, these claims have traditionally been blocked by anti-whaling members, who have also expressed their suspects that Japan hasn't been hunting whales for the sake of science as they claim, but they have been doing it only to continue with their traditional hunting activities.
I can't tell whether whale hunting is an activity related to the Japanese national traditions. What I can say is that whaling is not an essential activity in such country's economy. Those animals cannot be farmed and the exact number of whales cannot be determined, so if an allowance of commercial whaling is issued, a optimum control of the amount of births and deaths of such animals cannot be exactly estimated. Thus, it is easier to lose control over the "sustainable" amount of whales that may be hunted per year.
I admire the Japanese culture, and I respect Japan as an advanced country made up of a society with a high education. But I find their arguments about whaling inadmissible. I simply can't find a reasonable justification for which commercial whale hunting should be further permitted. What else is needed to preserve traditions, apart from killing whales allegedly for the sake of science, and then selling their meat in the markets as food?


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