Sunday, June 18, 2006

Action Alert: Japan Imperils 20-Year Ban on Commercial Whaling

Pro-whaling voting bloc could set world conservation policy back for decades to come

With whales facing increased threats from global warming, ocean noise (from military experiments) and commercial fishing nets and lines, they could have to deal with an even more imminent threat later this month when the International Whaling Commission (IWC) meets from June 16th to 20th on the Caribbean island of St. Kitts. Since the late 1990s, Japan has been gradually buying up a voting majority at the IWC -- the global organization that regulates whaling and whale conservation -- by offering major financial aid incentives to poor nations for voting in favor of commercial whaling. Using this strategy, Japan has finally achieved a simple majority (more than 51%), and is about to exercise the power of this voting bloc.

Even though an official moratorium on whale hunting has been firmly in place since 1986, Japan and other countries -- notably Iceland and Norway -- have used a loophole in the law to continue killing these endangered and beloved marine mammals. Over 25,000 whales have been slaughtered since the ban took effect, most for the supposed purpose of "scientific whaling," which the IWC considers legal. Considering the fact that meat from most of the whales killed for "science" is sold in Japanese supermarkets and restaurants, it is hard to see this claim as anything more than pure hypocrisy. In fact, only weeks ago an international panel of legal experts deemed Japan's "scientific whaling" to be "unlawful" in light the international ban.

Fortunately, Japan does not yet have the 75% majority vote they need to fully overturn the whaling ban. However, they are already planning several measures that will consolidate their support in the IWC and may soon have enough power to fully reinstate commercial whaling. For instance, voting now takes place openly, but Japan intends to introduce secret ballots so that their future vote buying efforts will be untraceable. This will allow more countries to join the pro-whaling forces without having to worry about criticism from conservationists and consumer boycotts. Japan also wants to abolish the recently created Conservation Committee, which promotes programs to save whales instead of killing them.

Even though surveys show that less than 1% of Japanese people eat whale meat at least once a month, Japan is intent on threatening the survival of endangered species in defiance of international law and world opinion. It is time for everyone who opposes the killing of whales to stand up and speak out -- before it's too late.

What You Can Do:

Please contact President Bush today and urge him to prevent Japan from reversing the international ban on commercial whaling. Also click to send him an automatic follow-up email.

President George W. Bush
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
Tel: (202) 456-1111
Fax: (202) 456-2461

Visit to learn more about how you can help protect whales.