Why, Obama? Why?

The Obama Administration and the IWC (International Whaling Commission) announced on April 22, 2010 the publication of a proposal in which they recommended allowing members of the IWC who are currently whaling under the guise of scientific research to do so legally for the next 10 years, ending a 25-year long moratorium on commercial whaling.

This proposal would permit Japan to kill whales in the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary in addition to its coastal waters, putting already sensitive whale populations and non-target species at great risk.

Closer to home, the International Whaling Commission (IWC) Scientific Committee will meet on May 30th to decide on quotas for the gray whale, the most commonly seen whale on the Pacific Coast of North America. The IWC members have drawn up an agreement which could see a quota of 145 gray whales a year being hunted and killed for 10 years without periodic review and without current abundance estimates. Although there is no official count available for gray whale calves, the unofficial consensus based on annual whale counts for is that the number of gray whales along the entire west coast this year are significantly reduced.

The logic behind the decision was to discontinue the exploitation of loopholes which currently allow whaling nations to kills whales in the name of scientific research.  In exchange for a return to legal whaling, the whalers would have to agree to stricter monitoring of their operations, including the placing of tracking devices and international monitors on all whaling ships and participation in a whale DNA registry to track global trade in whale products. The best argument against this I’ve heard is that this is the equivalent of allowing criminals to legally kill in the streets so that we can know who is killing who and what kind of gun they are using.

May 23 is official save the whales day. Protests are scheduled to take place on May 23rd at 10:00 AM in coastal town along the entire coast of California. Greenpeace, the NRDC, and other major conservationist groups are also collecting signatures to have the proposal overturned and encouraging calls to the White House. One of the most compelling arguments that conservationists are making is that based on economic studies of the whale watch industriy, whales are more valuable alive than dead. And so, you may want to vote with your wallets and go whale watching this year in a move to save the whales. Here are my top 5 favorite whale watching trips on the West Coast.

The official discussions on this proposal are scheduled to take place at the IWC’s annual meeting, in Morroco on June 16 and 17, 2010 and during a private commissioner’s meeting at the same meeting June 20, 2010.

Who knows what goes on behind closed doors at these places or why the Obama Administration, which in 2008 promised that the would take a strong anti-whaling stance against Japan, have shifted their position. It seems like whales are just another poker chip that they are playing to keep cross cultural communications flowing smoothly. I say take that poker chip off the table.

Here are a few more good stories on the subject:



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