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The convention governing the International Whaling Commission (IWC) states similarly that its "regulations with respect to the conservation and utilization of whale resources ... shall be based on scientific findings".

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Introduction

SCIENCE-BASED SOLUTIONS TO CONSERVATION PROBLEMS President Clinton, when announcing his decision last October to delay the implementation of sanctions on Norway following that country's recommencement of commercial whaling, stated the United States' strong commitment to science- based international solutions to global conservation problems. The convention governing the International Whaling Commission (IWC) states similarly that its "regulations with respect to the conservation and utilization of whale resources ... shall be based on scientific findings". But the practice differs greatly from the principle. The IWC took a decision in 1982 to impose a global moratorium on all commercial whaling at a time of growing scientific evidence that the Antarctic minke whale population, at least, could certainly sustain a limited harvest. Whaling countries, angered by this decision which they considered to be without scientific justification, hit back later in the 80's by making use of a provision in the IWC Convention which allowed them to issue permits to their nationals to catch some whales for the purpose of scientific research - research is conducted as a part of these "scientific" whaling operations, but is that their primary purpose? Most recently there is the proposal for a whale sanctuary throughout the Southern Ocean - a transparent attempt to prevent the resumption of whaling on the 3/4 million strong Antarctic minke population for reasons which have nothing to do with science. This has been accompanied by the unedifying spectacle of Western nations and "conservation" (or, more accurately, "preservationist") ...read more.

Middle

Thus even relatively low levels of catch, if continued, can lead to problems unless there is adequate monitoring and an option for adjusting catch limits. In other words, the risk involved in harvesting whale populations can be evaluated sensibly only for a Procedure which is to be consistently applied for a number of decades. Thus, as in sport, a Management Procedure involves all the parties concerned agreeing the rules before the game is played (and sticking to them during it!). IS THIS APPROACH BEING USED SUCCESSFULLY ELSEWHERE? This approach is not entirely new in fisheries. Iceland has been applying it in the management of its capelin fishery. Arising out of the IWC's initiative for whales, South Africa has now come to base catch limit decisions for its major fisheries for hake, sardine and anchovy on the approach. WHAT SORT OF CATCH REGIME FOR WHALES WOULD RESULT UNDER THE RMP? As far as catch limits for whales under the IWC Scientific Committee's proposed RMP are concerned, these would initially be set at annual levels of about 0.5% of current population sizes. That would apply to stocks of species not greatly depleted by past whaling activities, such as many of the world's minke whale populations. For stocks still markedly depleted such as the blue and fin whales of the Antarctic, this percentage would be considerably less - indeed zero for those and many other stocks for a number of decades yet. ...read more.

Conclusion

upon their results would be premature. Marine science can never, by its nature, prove something without some residual doubt. But methods are being improved, and cases may soon arise where the preponderance of indications that growing numbers of marine mammals will impact fisheries is so strong, that hard decisions will have to be faced to avoid the chance that important industries are put at risk. For example, growing fur seal herds off southern Africa are now more than 2 million strong. Their consumption of commercial species equates to the total catch by all the fishing industries in the area, and their continued growth may constitute a threat to the region's most valuable fishery for hake. IN CONCLUSION To conclude, let me return to President Clinton's concern for science-based limits, and credible management and monitoring for potential commercial whaling. From the scientific side, the RMP has been more thoroughly researched and tested than any comparable marine resource management system worldwide. Its own requirement for regular sighting surveys, as well as the regular review process associated with its implementation for any species and region, ensures adequate monitoring. It is so risk averse that the only real scientific basis for questioning its immediate implementation is that it is so conservative that it will waste much of a potential harvest. If the United States fails to endorse the RMP, is there any way that the US could then avoid the judgement of complete hypocrisy, unless it immediately suspended not only the aboriginal whaling by Alaskans, but indeed closed every one of the country's fisheries? ...read more.

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