Conservation wins vote over whaling

Berlin Initiative shifts focus at IWC

Feature story - 17 June, 2003
In a great move forward for oceans in crisis, conservation-minded countries tipped the balance in favor of whales, dolphins, and porpoises at the International Whaling Commission (IWC) meeting yesterday. They passed a resolution called the Berlin Initiative, which makes conservation the central work of the IWC.

Two humpback whales breaching.

Hard won at 25 votes for and 20 against, the resolution marks asignificant shift for the IWC away from whaling. It will help toprioritise the conservation needs of the world's whales, dolphins, andporpoises. Tens of thousands, and possibly hundreds of thousands, ofthese animals die annually as a result of human activities and thecontinuing degradation of the oceans. Threats range from entanglementin fishing nets, to toxic and noise pollution, to climate change.

The new conservation committee has a Herculean task ahead of it toaddress the problems facing whales, dolphins, and porpoises, but thisis a good first step.

"As the Mexican Commissioner Andreas Rosental said, a vote againstthis resolution would have been a vote against conservation," saysGreenpeace Oceans Campaigner Richard Page. "As expected, whalingnations tried every tactic to prevent the proposal from succeeding, butit is heartening to see that the will of the majority of the membercountries of IWC support conservation and alternate uses of whales likehigh quality whale watching."

Species like the Vaquita in the Gulf of California number only 600,and 39 are killed every year in gill nets. They are in dire need ofconcrete action. This is a clear case where a species would benefitfrom the IWC scientists' attention.