The International Whaling Commission is meeting this week in Portugal.
NZ is ably represented by former Prime Minister Geoffrey Palmer and, according to news reports, he is “respectfully urging” Japan to lift its threat to hunt humpback whales in the Antarctic. The ODT reports he told the IWC:
new evidence about the endangered status of humpbacks in the South Pacific had strengthened the case for a permanent ban… While some humpback stocks were thriving, Sir Geoffrey said it was impossible to know whether Japanese harpoons would strike these whales, or the highly depleted Oceania stock.
Also at the meeting, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (Ifaw) released a report compiled by ‘Economists at Large‘ showing that whale watching generates far more money than whale hunting. It calculated that, worldwide, the whale-watching industry now generates about $2.1bn per year, whale-watching has doubled in the past decade, and in 2008, 13 million people went to sea to watch cetaceans in 119 countries.
“Whale watching is clearly more environmentally sustainable and economically beneficial than hunting, and whales are worth far more alive than dead,” [Ifaw] told BBC News.
Iceland’s delegate, predictably responded that the two industries (whale-watching and whale-killing) were compatible and could grow together. Perhaps they believe that the classical economics theory can be universally applied – i.e. that the price commanded by whale-watchers will rise as whales get rarer. And an extinct whale is very very valuable. Oh dear. In actually fact they conflict directly, as illustrated in the 2006 incidence where tourists got the honour of watching a Norwegian boat harpooning a minke whale.
An earlier report commissioned by WWF, argued that that the Japanese and Norwegian hunts were a net cost to their governments, i.e. were an economic liability as well as an environmental liability.
So, it seems time to redefine the verb ‘whaling’ from “the act of hunting and killing a whale, that is subsidised by governments” to “the act of locating and watching whales, that makes money for sustainable tourism and is nicer to whales”. With that definition in mind, sit back, relax and enjoy a Kiwi classic: