As delegates from around the world converge on Portoroz, Slovenia for the opening of the 66th meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) on Monday, pro and anti-whaling nations are set to clash over Japan’s so-called ‘scientific whaling’.

The stage is set for a critical meeting of the IWC next week, with around 80 member countries coming together for their biennial meeting, and the first since Japan resumed scientific whaling in the Southern Ocean despite an earlier landmark judgment from the World Court ruling its Antarctic whaling was illegal and must stop.

Despite the 2014 World Court ruling, against the findings of expert scientists and the IWC, and flying in the face of international condemnation, in 2015/16, Japan’s whaling fleet returned to the Southern Ocean Sanctuary and slaughtered 333 minke whales, including more than 200 pregnant females.

Patrick Ramage, Global Whale Program Director for the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), said: “The World Court ruling against Japan’s whaling was clear and unequivocal. Japan’s decision to defy this judgment and train its harpoons on 333 more whales which should have been safe from slaughter has only provoked further international outcry. The reality is that scientific whaling is sham science, and commercial whaling by another name. Far more valuable data can be gathered from studying live whales rather than dead ones.

“Our governments cannot stand idly by and allow further needless slaughter of whales to continue. At this critical meeting of the IWC we need action to increase whale protection, not whale killing. We encourage member countries to increase pressure on Japan to abandon once and for all this cruel and outdated practice.”

IFAW is urging anti-whaling countries to speak up for whales, take a strong stance against Japan’s whaling at the IWC and support a resolution on improved review process for whaling under special permit (for scientific whaling). The aim of this resolution is to ensure the IWC is fully engaged on the issue and to prevent countries from simply issuing their own permits in contravention of the whaling convention.

Conservation-minded countries are also asked to approve a new sanctuary for whales in the South Atlantic Ocean against opposition from the pro-whaling lobby, and help ensure the IWC can be a truly modern day conservation body for whales instead of an old whalers’ club.

In what is shaping up to be a watershed meeting for the IWC, many other issues are also on the table, including a raft of proposals focusing on protecting whales from the range of threats they face today. This includes work on ship strikes, ocean noise pollution, marine debris, mercury and other chemical pollution, and whale strandings.

New initiatives are also being proposed to address animal welfare issues for whales, investigate the scientific benefits of live whales for ocean ecosystems and reduce the accidental bycatch of whales and dolphins in fishing gear.

IFAW opposes whaling because it is cruel and unnecessary; there is simply no humane way to kill a whale. Responsible whale watching offers a humane and economically viable alternative that is better for whales and provides more sustainable livelihoods for people.

Source: International Fund for Animal Welfare