Obama Administration to Back Lifting Ban on Whaling

The Obama Administration is apparently working to lift the international moratorium on whale hunting.

The Obama administration is leading an effort within the International Whaling Commission to lift a 24-year international ban on commercial whaling for Japan, Norway and Iceland, the remaining three countries in the 88-member commission that still hunt whales.

The administration argues that the new deal will save thousands of whales over the next decade by stopping the three countries from illegally exploiting loopholes in the moratorium.

But environmentalists aren’t buying it.

“That moratorium on commercial whaling was the greatest conservation victory of the 20th century. And in 2010 to be waving the white flag or bowing to the stubbornness of the last three countries engaged in the practice is a mind-numbingly dumb idea,” Patrick Ramage, the whaling director at the International Fund for Animal Welfare, told FoxNews.com.

This strikes me as a bad move, both politically (the ban on whaling is pretty popular and was championed by Reagan) and as policy. While there has definitely been a lot of poaching over the last 24 years, overall the moratorium on whaling appears to have cut the numbers of whales hunted substantially.

And frankly, whales should be protected from hunting. Their numbers continual to dwindle (albeit at a slower rate), which is tragic because most cetacean species are highly intelligent. I’m not really much of an animal rights activist, and I have no problem with meat consumption generally. That said, there are species that are intelligent enough to warrant special levels of protection from hunting and exploitation. Whales and great apes most certainly fall into that category.

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Alex Knapp
About Alex Knapp
Alex Knapp is Associate Editor at Forbes for science and games. He was a longtime blogger elsewhere before joining the OTB team in June 2005 and contributed some 700 posts through January 2013. Follow him on Twitter @TheAlexKnapp.


  1. PD Shaw says:

    The problem is that the moratorium was temporarily imposed until an agreement could be reached on sustainable levels of whaling. No agreement could be reached largely because the conservationist view became a zero-tolerance view on whaling. A lack of good faith can be claimed by Japan and the Nordic states, but the moratorium may have helped polarize popular views btw/ those who experienced no discomfort from the moratorium and those who suffered during it.

    Other than that, my view is exactly the same as Alex’s. I would like the level of acceptable whaling to be zero, as with other semi-sentient creatures.

  2. Herb says:

    I like whales. But when I hear this “save the whales cuz they’re smart stuff,” I think of the old Derek and Clive bit.

    “Yeah, but they’re not. Whales are [bleeping] stupid. Can you mention one whale in the history of mankind that has had a record in the top ten? Can you? Can you mention one whale who’s written the equivalent of, er, ‘Othello’, Shakespeare, ‘Health & Efficiency’? They’ve produced nothing in the way of literature. All they’ve [bleeping] produced is a load of other whales and all they eat is [bleeping] plankton, and they call them intelligent. Can you imagine drifting along in the sea with your mouth open and a lot of [bleeping] plankton going in?”

    I don’t agree with the sketch, but it remains true that whales have produced nothing in the way of literature.

    PS. I can see how “closing the loophole” could make it easier to reduce whaling even further than an easily dodged moratorium.

    From the link:

    “Under Obama’s deal, the three whaling countries would be allowed to keep hunting whales for a 10-year period in reduced numbers. The whaling countries in return would agree to tighter oversight of their operations, including participation in a whale DNA registry.”

    It’s reasonable to conclude that the “tighter oversight” may include fines, licensing requirements, quotas, etc. And no “scientific research” exception.

    After all, what’s more important. That whaling is officially “banned?” Or that fewer whales are being killed?

  3. libhomo says:

    I am so thoroughly disgusted with Barack Bush.