Congressional Leaders Encourage US to Step up for Whales Again

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Washington, D.C. -- Congressional leaders are calling on the Bush Administration to stand up for whales at this month's annual International Whaling Commission (IWC) meeting in Chile. Recognizing the need for US leadership, House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Nick Rahall (D-WV) and eight of his colleagues in the House of Representatives, as well as Senator John Kerry (D-MA) and Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), have introduced resolutions in their respective chambers to send the message that the United States must not be bullied into submission by pro-whaling interests.

"The message is simple. Now is not the time to capitulate to calls to weaken or undermine the existing IWC ban on commercial whaling," said Chairman Rahall. "The American people care deeply about protecting whales, and the United States should continue on as an international leader in whale conservation."

The United States is the current chair of the IWC, the international body founded over 60 years ago to be responsible for the conservation of whales. Since that time, a ban on commercial whaling has been instituted, two sanctuaries have been established, and attitudes toward whale conservation have improved. Yet while progress has been made, most of the great whales still face an uncertain future one that is made worse by additional threats in the form of climate change, fishing gear entanglement, overfishing of prey species, ship strikes, toxic pollution, and lethal sonar.

However, the biggest threat to whales comes from the member nations of Japan, Norway and Iceland, which have flouted the whaling ban and continued to whale for commercial gain by exploiting loopholes in the IWC Convention. Since the moratorium was put into effect, these countries have killed more than 25,000 whales, including over 11,000 who were taken under the guise of "scientific research." Just this week, Norway and Iceland also resumed trade in whale meat with Japan, in flagrant defiance of an international ban on such trafficking.

"In the face of increasing pressure from pro-whaling nations, the US must reclaim its historic position as a leader in whale conservation and support the moratorium on commercial whaling. The time is running short to protect the world's dwindling whale populations," said Senator Kerry.

Although the United States has been an outspoken proponent of protecting the whales, most recently, US officials have not exercised this leadership position. In fact, rumored deals are said to have been initiated with the whalers. The ban is now in jeopardy, since the pro-whaling faction has recruited allied nations to join the IWC and convince fellow members that the body is unworkable and at an impasse. Once pro-conservation countries are now on the brink of capitulation and are in desperate need of leadership. Having led international efforts in the IWC to adopt the ban on commercial whaling, the United States is the natural choice for assuming this role, and it must do so before it is too late.

"This resolution serves to put the United States back on track and reaffirm its historically strong position in support of the whales. As current chair of the IWC; the United States holds a very important role and must extend all efforts to refocus the body toward its much-needed conservation aims," said Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) Research Associate Susan Millward. "AWI commends Chairman Rahall, Senator Kerry, Senator Boxer, and their colleagues for sponsoring this important resolution."

Media Contact:
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For over 57 years the Animal Welfare Institute has been the leading voice for animals across the country and on Capitol Hill to reduce the sum total of pain and fear inflicted on animals by humans. To learn more about us, please visit www.awionline.org.