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Whale hunt update: IWC to consider easing ban to reduce Japan's annual kill

January 27, 2009 | 11:02 am

U.S. whaling ship operates off Malibu area in the 1930s.

News item: The International Whaling Commission is considering easing its ban on commercial whaling to allow Japan to hunt whales off its coast — if Japan promises to kill fewer whales in the Antarctic.

Reaction: What the IWC ought to do is keep the ban in place and tighten the loophole that allows Japan to hunt whales in the Antarctic in the name of science, then turn and sell the whale meat commercially to a populace that is increasingly turned off by the product.

There are only three nations remaining with whaling industries: Norway, Iceland and Japan, whose industry is the largest, claiming up to 1,000 whales annually. Japan has essentially ignored a 1986 ban intended to protect intelligent mammals that for generations endured wide-scale slaughter, with many species hunted to the brink of extinction.

The U.S., thankfully, believes the ban should remain in place. Conservation groups do too. Said Capt. Paul Watson of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, of a proposed lifting of the ban: "It's sort of like saying to bank robbers that you can't rob a bank in the city, but we'll let you do it in the country."

The issue will be raised during the IWC's meeting in June.

— Pete Thomas

Photo: U.S. whaling ship operates off Malibu area in the 1930s. As many as 250 gray whales were harpooned off Point Dume annually until a lack of whales and dying industry halted the slaughter. Pacific gray whales, once on the brink of extinction, now number about 20,000. Credit: Emerson Gaze