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Controversial Caribbean whaling approved with U.S., Russian aboriginal hunts

July 04, 2012|By Erin Loury
  • Activists protest Wednesday, demanding the creation of a South Atlantic whale sanctuary, in front of the hotel where the 64th International Whaling Commission is meeting in Panama City.
Activists protest Wednesday, demanding the creation of a South Atlantic… (Rodrigo Arangua /AFP/GettyImages )

Representatives of the International Whaling Commission meeting in Panama this week have approved a controversial proposal extending the Aboriginal and Subsistence Whaling quotas for three countries: the United States, Russia and the Caribbean island nation of St. Vincent & the Grenadines.  The vote passed by a three-fourths majority, according to American Cetacean Society Director Cheryl McCormick, who is attending the meeting.

The proposal sparked objections from a number of whale conservation groups because it is the first to “bundle” the quotas for three whale species into one request, which can be approved with a single vote. According to a statement from nine conservation groups, including the American Cetacean Society, the Earth Island Institute and Cetacean Society International, this proposal sets a dangerous precedent by allowing weak, controversial proposals to ride the coattails of proposals that are more likely to be approved.  The groups argued that the IWC should consider the merits of each country’s quota individually, as it has done in the past.

Aboriginal and subsistence whaling aims to protect the whale hunting traditions of native groups. But conservation groups argue that non-aboriginal people are harvesting whales in St. Vincent & the Grenadines, and the country has not adequately justified the “cultural and nutritional need for the hunt.” Groups object to the grouping of this hunt, which they say is poorly managed, with the well-documented and highly regulated subsistence and aboriginal hunts in the U.S. and Russia, according to the American Cetacean Society blog.

The approved measure permits the hunting of baleen whales through 2018, and allows for the killing of 336 bowhead whales in the Bering-Chukchi-Beaufort Seas, 744 gray whales from the Eastern stock of the North Pacific, and 24 humpback whales by St. Vincent & the Grenadines.

The vote follows yesterday’s failure to approve the South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary, proposed by Brazil, Argentina, South Africa and Uruguay.  The proposal failed to garner a three-quarters majority, with 38 votes for and 21 votes against, and 2 abstaining, according to the American Cetacean Society. Opposing countries cited the lack of scientific evidence that the sanctuary would enhance whale populations.

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