The start of this month arrived with good news for those who stand against whaling, and for the animals themselves, as last week the proposal to remove key protections for great whales was denied in the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora’s (CITES) 17th meeting in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Said proposal requested that Decision 14.81 be withdrawn. The Decision consists of a single sentence: “No periodic review of any great whale, including the fin whale, should occur while the moratorium by the International Whaling Commission is in place.”
However, with a vote of 35 to 3, the participant countries ruled against removal of this decision, while Iceland, Norway and Japan argued for it. These are the only countries which maintain active commercial whaling.
The need to protect fin whales from hunting is underlined by the volume of whale meat exported by Iceland. Last week, a coalition of conservation and animal protection organizations confirmed that in July 2016, more than 1,500 metric tonnes of products from endangered fin whales were shipped from Iceland to Japan. Last year, the same transport vessel reached Japan with more than 1,800 metric tonnes of Icelandic whale meat on its deck.
The practice goes against the moratorium issued by International Whaling Commission (IWC) in 1985, which establishes a pause on commercial whaling on all whale species and populations. However, in 2002, after previously quitting the commission, Iceland managed to rejoin IWC, with key exceptions to the moratorium. Since 2006, the country has established its own catch limits but must provide information on catches and associated scientific data to the IWC. Although the practice of whaling in Iceland isn’t strictly illegal, it is criticized and condemned worldwide, especially considering that some of the species the whale meat market aims for are still listed as endangered.
CITES is an international agreement between governments, created to ensure that the survival of different specimens of wild animals and plants is not threatened by international trade. It lists all species in three appendices, from which the first includes ones threatened by extinction and thereby protected by firm trade restrictions.