In 1986, the International Whaling Commission (“IWC”) instituted a moratorium on all commercial whaling. This measure was taken in order to protect whale species, such as the humpback, from extinction. The wording of the moratorium decision allowed an exception to the ban in situations where the whaling was for scientific purposes.
Then, in 1994, the IWC declared a sanctuary in Antarctica that would permanently ban commercial whaling in the area even if the moratorium is ever lifted. This provision also provides an exception for scientific research. Japan capitalized on the exception, and between 2005 and 2006, the Japanese killed 2,113 whales in the name of scientific research. The meat was then sold throughout the country, used in school lunches and mixed into pet food. Japan has failed to produce any substantial scientific data from twenty-two years of research.
The sanctuary limits the whaling of minke whales to 300 per year. It is nearly impossible to tell whether Japan has exceeded its limit, but has continued to take advantage of the whaling for allegedly scientific purposes in the Antarctic. Japan continues to issue itself permits, and the statistical data compiled for the IWC is accepted in good faith, though there are probably illegal whaling vessels still slaughtering minkes.
Should the exception for whaling for scientific purposes be revoked? After 25 years of whaling for scientific purposes, can more scientific knowledge still be gained?
- Interview with Pace Law second-year student Andrew Hirtle