As I write, the delegates of the IWC (International Whaling Commission ) are behind closed doors discussing the future of whaling; specifically whether Japan should be allowed to carry out small-scale commercial whaling. Not surprisingly, this has divided delegates and there have been numerous meetings prior to this annual meeting to thrash out the terms. Japan has offered the tempting concession of no whaling in the Southern Ocean which has put New Zealand in the firing line. New Zealand may opt for this concession in exchange for limited whaling, so has been accused of selling out.
One matter which has inflammed the meeting is the suggestion that the endangered fin whale (see above) may be included in Japan's commercial quota. These magnificant animals ~ the second largest animal in the world ~ are often nicknmaed the greyhound of the sea because of their speed. Their speed saved them from whaling during the 19th century but as whaling boats got faster, the whalers turned their attention to the fin whale, decimating the population by 70 % between 1904 and 1979. Despite protection from the moratorium on commercial whaling their numbers have been slow to recover and in 1996 its status was moved from vulnerable to endangered.
Other matters have been discussed this week and the IWC received reports regarding the status of several whale populations. While some populations of humpback, southern right and blue whales in the Southern hemisphere were increasing, there was still concerns regarding the survival of the western North Pacific gray whale with just 130 individuals and the western North Atlantic right whale with 300 individuals.For these populations, anthropogenic mortality was the biggest killer, including collisions with shipping and entanglement in nets.