my writeup sort of expands on the final paragraph of the previous writeup in this node...
the continuing death of an era
In terms of the environmentalism
side of things, the whaling issue has undergone various changes and a progression through history. In the 1940's, as with other environmental issues
at the time, the goal was conservation
of economically useful resources
. As the whale population
s declined, the whaling industry
feared that there would one day not be enough whales to hunt and kill.
It was only decades later that people began to grasp the concept that whales had any inherent value
as a species, apart from the economic
benefit of selling whale products, and deserved protection on their own. Another idea that some subscribed to -- that just as humans
do, whales also have a right to life
There had not really been any more commercial
whaling in the United States since the 1960's, so the country no longer had an economic stake in the whaling issue, other than the whale-watching
industry. The lengthy period of overexploitation
of whales, however, had significantly dented whale populations and threatened certain species. This led to the establishment of the International Whaling Commission
by the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling in 1946. The convention prohibited killing of certain species which neared extinction
and set quotas
on the number of whales each country could kill per year.
Nevertheless, the IWC was a club of whaling nations. The organization had no power to enforce
its regulations with regards to quotas or even the bans on killing endangered species
. The quotas were also set too high. Thus, although it was not difficult to comply, there was little change in behavior from pre-IWC times. There was also no international organization to facilitate consensus building on the scientific facts on whaling. The IWC's scientific committee, under the political and economic interests of whaling nations, continued to produce data and analysis supporting continued commercial exploitation.
Meanwhile, in the United States, Americans who began to learn more about the intelligence of marine mammals
like whales and dolphins
became sympathetic to the plight
of the whales. Domestically, there was increasing pressure for serious international protection for whales. The United States, driven by the Endangered Species Act
of 1969, declared eight whale species endangered
in 1970 and then took the lead in defining the whaling issue internationally, creating a three-fourths majority needed under the treaty for a whaling ban. Because the charter of the IWC did not limit membership to whaling states, non-whaling states could be recruited to the Whaling Commission to overcome the veto coalition (which had consisted of the whaling states Norway, Japan, the Soviet Union, Iceland, Chile, and Peru). The United States also utilized the threat of economic sanctions to weaken the veto coalition.
By 1986, a moratorium
had been placed on all commercial whaling.
Today, the only whaling permissible is whaling for scientific study and aboriginal whaling practices. However, this is not been without controversy. Whaling for scientific purposes in Japan
has often been viewed as meaning 1) catch, 2) kill, 3) study, and then 4) eat. Whale meat, a delicacy
of Japanese cuisine
, continues to appear on menus despite the end of commercial whaling. The argument for aboriginal
whaling practices is the five to ten thousand year history of whaling by arctic natives. It is not believed that their subsistance whaling of at most give to six whales per year contributed to significant population declines. The arctic
climate also leaves few options and whale meat is a large part of their diet
as well as culture
. Still, others argue against the aboriginal whale hunts, believing in the whales' right to life.
Porter, Brown, and Chasek. Global Environmental Politics. Westview Press. 2000.
"Japan, Feasting on Whale, Sniffs at 'Culinary Impreialism' of U.S." New York Times International. August 10, 2000.
Professor Kal Raustiala, Environment 161/Political Science 122B lectures, UCLA.