Friday, July 2, 2010

The International Politics of Whaling : Recent Developments

Whales - large, mysterious, intelligent, and endangered. Has any mammal inspired such romantic images of the sea and love for nature as much as the whale, yet aroused such controversy in global environmental conservation ? King of the Seas, symbol of the environmental movement, meat and oil for commercial whaling. Over the years, large-scale commercial whaling has depleted a number of whale populations to a significant extent, resulting in the International Whaling Commission (IWC) issuing a moratorium on whaling in 1986. The moratorium advocates a ban on whale hunting but tolerates indigenous and scientific hunting. World-wide attitudes toward whaling shifted gradually from economic necessity and widespread acceptance to moral censure. The current debate centres on the appropriateness of this global ban. Strong opposition is given by communities in Japan, Norway and Iceland, three countries still supporting whaling. The reputed recovery of some whale populations has been put forward as their argument for resuming limited commercial whaling. Some recent developments will illustrate the highly controversial nature of whaling.

Annual Meeting of the International Whaling Commission

From 22 to 25 June, delegates from 88 countries attended the 62nd Annual Meeting of the IWC in Agadir, Morocco. In order to try and smooth over the differences, a proposal for a compromise was formulated aimed to authorise hunting, which would strictly be controlled by the definition of quotas for a ten-year period. Japan, which, under the guise of scientific hunting, kills close to 1,000 whales per annum, offered concessions on its quotas and agreed to the international monitoring of its activities, including onboard its vessels, but it refuses to give up hunting on the high seas, in particular in the waters of the Southern Ocean, where the IWC established a whale sanctuary in 1994. However, for a number of countries hostile to hunting, this proposal, even with declining quotas, would have legitimised an infringement of the moratorium. And so, the Conference closed without a consensus, thus implicitly confirming the current status quo.

The only tangible decision, adopted by consensus on 25 June, was to grant a quota of 27 humpback whales over three years to Greenland's Inuit People. Represented by Denmark, the Inuit defended their right to manage marine resources on their territory, while referring to the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. To obtain the green light from the IWC and break the deadlock, the European Union suggested a compromise to Denmark: reducing fin whale catches from ten to nine in exchange for humpback whales. Greenland is also entitled to 212 small fin whales. The agreement will be valid until 2012, when quotas will be re-examined.

No longer taking into account the IWC, Iceland and Norway will continue commercial whale hunting in their territorial waters on the basis of national, unilaterally-established quotas. That being so, whale hunting will be one of the hot topics in negotiations for Iceland’s accession to the European Union once the environment chapter is opened. The subject is weighing down the situation with negotiations already predicted to be very difficult on financial services and fishing.

Whaling before the International Court of Justice

Three weeks earlier to the IWC's 62nd Annual Meeting, Australia instituted proceedings against Japan before the International Court of Justice for alleged breach of international obligations concerning whaling. Australian Environment Minister Peter Garrett and Attorney General Robert McClelland said in a joint statement that the move underlines their commitment to bring an end to Japan's program of so-called scientific whaling. In its Application of 31 May 2010 Australia stated that Japan has breached and is continuing to breach its obligations under the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling by its continued pursuit of a large scale programme of whaling under its Whale Research Programme (JARPA II) in the Southern Ocean. Australia points out that, having regard to the scale of the JARPA II Programme, the lack of any demonstrated relevance for the conservation and management of whale stocks, and to the risks presented to targeted species and stocks, the Programme cannot be justified under article VIII ICRW, which regulates the granting of special permits to kill, take and treat whales for purposes of scientific research. Australia alleges further that Japan has acted in violation of its obligations under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) and under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD). The Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said the two countries have agreed to treat the matter as an independent legal arbitration of a disagreement between friends.

Whaling on Trial : the 'Tokyo Two'

Meanwhile in Japan, Greenpeace activists Toru Suzuki and Junichi Sato have been facing trial for nearly two years for alleged theft and trespass. They face up to ten years in prison. Having exposed a scandal involving government corruption entrenched within the tax-payer funded whaling industry, the trial attracts international attention. A working group of the United Nations Human Rights Council has already ruled out that, in the defendants' attempts to expose the scandal in the public interest, their human rights have been violated by the Japanese Government.

PPL Books and Articles

BURCHFIELD, C., The Legal Cetacean : a Select Bibliography on Whales and International Whaling, 36 International Journal of Legal Information (2008) 3, pp. 490-505

BURNS, W.C.G. and A. GILLESPIE (eds.), , The Future of Cetaceans in a Changing World, Ardsley, NY : Transnational, 2003, XXVII, 457 p

DARBY, A., Harpoon : Into the Hart of Whaling, Cambridge, MA : Da Capo Press, 2008, XIX, 300 p

To many, the whale is a majestic mammal, the 'mind in the ocean'. What were once whaling towns have become homes to hordes of devoted whale watchers, and whaling, for the most part, was thought to have been vanquished. It was just a matter of waiting for those few misguided nations still whaling to come to their senses. That never happened. Instead, the whalers came back. In 1987, the first full year after the worldwide moratorium on commercial whaling was agreed to, 100 whales were killed on the end of grenade-tipped harpoons. In 2005, the figure was around 2,500. Harpoon reveals the political machinations and manipulation at the highest levels that have allowed some countries, particularly Japan, to continue hunting whales against the wishes of the world, with the IWC powerless to stop the slaughter.

EPSTEIN, C., The Power of Words in International Relations : Birth of an Anti-Whaling Discourse, Cambridge [etc.] : The MIT Press, 2008, , XII, 333 p

In the second half of the twentieth century, worldwide attitudes toward whaling shifted from widespread acceptance to moral censure. Why? Whaling, once as important to the global economy as oil is now, had long been uneconomical. Major species were long known to be endangered. Yet nations had continued to support whaling. In The Power of Words in International Relations, Charlotte Epstein argues that the change was brought about not by changing material interests but by a powerful anti-whaling discourse that successfully recast whales as extraordinary and intelligent endangered mammals that needed to be saved. Epstein views whaling both as an object of analysis in its own right and as a lens for examining discursive power, and how language, materiality, and action interact to shape international relations. By focusing on discourse, she develops an approach to the study of agency and the construction of interests that brings non-state actors and individuals into the analysis of international politics.Epstein analyzes the "society of whaling states" as a set of historical practices where the dominant discourse of the day legitimated the killing of whales rather than their protection. She then looks at this whaling world's mirror image: the rise from the political margins of an anti-whaling discourse, which orchestrated one of the first successful global environmental campaigns, in which saving the whales ultimately became shorthand for saving the planet. Finally, she considers the continued dominance of a now taken-for-granted anti-whaling discourse, including its creation of identity categories that align with and sustain the existing international political order. Epstein's synthesis of discourse, power, and identity politics brings the fields of international relations theory and global environmental politics into a fruitful dialogue that benefits both.

GILLESPIE, A., Whaling Diplomacy : Defining Issues in International Environmental Law, Cheltenham [etc.] : Elgar, 2005, XXII, 509 p

FRIEDHEIM, R.L. (ed.), Toward a Sustainable Whaling Regime, Seattle [etc.] : University of Washington Press [etc.], 2001, X, 382 p

STOETT, P.J., The International Politics of Whaling, Vancouver : UBC Press, 1997, XII, 228

*Librarian's Special Recommendation*

BURNETT, D.G., Trying Leviathan : the Nineteenth-Century New York Court Case that Put the Whale on Trial and Challenged the Order of Nature, Princeton, NJ [etc.] : Princeton University Press, 2007, XIV, 266

In Trying Leviathan, D. Graham Burnett recovers the strange story of Maurice v. Judd, an 1818 trial that pitted the new sciences of taxonomy against the then-popular--and biblically sanctioned--view that the whale was a fish. The immediate dispute was mundane: whether whale oil was fish oil and therefore subject to state inspection. But the trial fueled a sensational public debate in which nothing less than the order of nature--and how we know it--was at stake. Burnett vividly recreates the trial, during which a parade of experts--pea-coated whalemen, pompous philosophers, Jacobin lawyers--took the witness stand, brandishing books, drawings, and anatomical reports, and telling tall tales from whaling voyages. Falling in the middle of the century between Linnaeus and Darwin, the trial dramatized a revolutionary period that saw radical transformations in the understanding of the natural world.

1 comment:

TheLibrarian said...

Information on the "Tokyo Two":


The opinion of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention of the OHCHR can be found here:

The Japanese Governments reply can be found here:

Kind Regards,