In 1982, the member states of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) adopted the moratorium on commercial whaling. It’s a milestone in both species conservation and animal protection, as it protects a group of animal species and its individuals from being hunted commercially.
However, there are quite a few “buts” to this decision:
• There are more than 90 cetacean species which can be subdivided into baleen whales and toothed whales. However, the moratorium only applies to large whale species, and the term ‘large whale’ is not defined. The IWC considers the ‘large whales’ to be the baleen whales and a small number of toothed whales (sperm whales and a few beaked whales). More than 70 cetacean species, including all dolphins, are not protected by the moratorium.
• Two European countries, Norway and Iceland, do not accept the moratorium and continue to hunt whales commercially. Iceland even set an inglorious precedent in international law: While the archipelagic state accepted the moratorium in the 1980s and stopped whaling, it left the IWC in 1992. Then, in 2002, Iceland re-joined the IWC with a reservation on the moratorium. Shortly thereafter it started so-called scientific whaling and in 2006 commercial whaling again.
• Article VIII of the Convention for the Regulation of Whaling allows contracting states under certain conditions to grant special permits for the killing of whales for purposes of scientific research. Japan is the one country making use of this article to continue its whaling in the Antarctic whale sanctuary and in the Northwestern Pacific Ocean. In 2014, the International Court of Justice condemned this practice as it does not meet the criteria for scientific whaling, and called on Japan to discontinue the “scientific whaling programme”.
SHIFTING VALUES works with and for the internationally renowned marine conservation organisation OceanCare aiming not only to defend the moratorium, but to implement this conservation tool globally. Marine mammals face many threats, and ceasing commercial whaling is the easiest way to protect whales, all the more as there is no need whatsoever for such hunting in the 21st century. In addition, we strike a new path to pursue this goal and regard regional cooperations and U.N. agreements as new, progressive options to gain protection against hunting also for all the other cetacean species.