Plans for whale sanctuary in South Atlantic harpooned at IWC meeting

A proposal to establish a whale sanctuary in the South Atlantic failed to receive sufficient votes for the resolution to be passed at the 66th meeting of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) at Portoroz, Slovenia last week.

The proposal, was put forth by Argentina, Brazil, Gabon, South Africa and Uruguay, received the support of 35 countries. However, 24 countries were against it (and two countries abstained), and this meant that it failed to achieve the 75 percent majority needed for adoption. If the resolution had been passed, the whale sanctuary would have covered an area of 20 million square kilometres, spanning between the eastern coast of South America and the western coast of Africa.

WWF marine protection expert Stephan Lutter criticised the decision. He said in German,“This is a blow to the protection of whales. Any progress in the area of their protection has been harpooned, and the IWC has been prevented from doing more to protect whales from being hunted.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) had also supported the establishment of the sanctuary. “More than fifty whale species live in this region. Ship collisions and intensive fishing are some of the daily threats that need to be minimised. We welcome the fact that neighbouring countries want to move towards more protection, and it is regrettable that this has been blocked for years.

Under the IWC moratorium, although whaling is prohibited, it is permitted for aboriginal subsistence or scientific reasons. Japan hunts whales in the Southern Ocean under the scientific exemption. The WWF has called for this loophole to be closed.

There is no reason to kill whales in the name of science. In addition, the definition of scientific whaling cannot be decided by the whaling nations,” said Lutter.

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