Iceland’s annual whaling quotas could soon change after the International Whaling Commission’s meeting this week, being held in Agadir, Morocco.
The moratorium on commercial whaling in place since 1986 will be up for debate, after the IWC chairman proposed a draft for a deal on international whaling regulations two months ago. The new deal would provide new sanctions for commercial whaling while lowering the quota on whales to be hunted by Iceland, Norway and Japan for the next decade. The three whaling countries currently set their whaling quotas unilaterally, whereas this deal would set international limits on whaling. It would also set a ban on international trading.
Iceland’s IWC commissioner, Tómas Heiðar, has little hope that the new deal will be received positively. Speaking to the BBC, he was quoted as saying that to him the logical compromise was limited whaling, but few were prepared to negotiate. “As we come to Agadir, we see that not many of the anti-whaling countries are prepared to contemplate anything other than Aboriginal subsistence whaling, so consequently I’ve no reason to be optimistic that there will be a compromise,” he said. “But we will continue to work constructively.”
Most polarised from Iceland on the issue is Australia, whose IWC commissioner, Donna Patrachenko, is strongly opposed to providing sanctions for whaling. “The moratorium must stay in place,” she told BBC News. UK-based conservationist group Campaign Whale says that the deal would not only reward countries who did not abide by the moratorium, but would kick the door open for other countries wanting to take part in commercial whaling, such as South Korea.
Other anti-whaling countries, such as the US and New Zealand, are more willing to allow sanctions so long as their bottom-line is met. Conservation groups WWF and Greenpeace see this deal as an improvement, although not their desired solution, to the current situation. Wendy Elliott, manager of the species programme with WWF International says “What we’re trying to do is to bring that whaling under international control.” This would mean a significant phase-out of Japan’s Antarctic whaling, a ban on hunting threatened species, agreement on whale meat being used for domestic purposes only and tighter species control measures, such as a DNA register of meat.
For Iceland, this would mean whalers could no longer hunt fin whales, currently listed as endangered by the UN World Conservation Monitoring Centre and a ban on exporting whale meat to the other two whaling nations.
Photo courtesy of the International Whaling Commission.