The fate of thousands of whales is in the hands of Tanzania

by Phil Kline

August 25, 2014

A Humpback whale breaks the surface as it heads south to Antarctica for the summer.

© Paul Hilton / Greenpeace

This year, at the International Whaling Commission (IWC) meetings in Slovenia, member nations will vote for the second time on a proposal that would create a permanent whale sanctuary in the South Atlantic.In 1994, the Commission declared the entire Southern Ocean to be a sanctuary for whales.

Japan is putting pressure on nations to vote against the sanctuary and for commercial whaling, but just one vote could sway the results and save South Atlantic whales. Tanzania could be that vote.

Greenpeace delivered a letter this week to Tanzanian President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete asking for his support in asking his country’s IWC delegation to support the permanent sanctuary. This decision would not only protect whales and dolphins, but would contribute to the longevity of Tanzania’s critical tourist industry.

Join us in askingTanzanian President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete for his countrys support on the South Atlantic Sanctuary.

What is the International Whaling Commission?

The initial members were whaling nations. The goal of the IWC was to “provide for the proper development of whale stocks and thus make possible the orderly development of the whaling industry.” However, in its early days, the Commission achieved neither, as one after another, remaining whale populations were hunted to near-extinction as member nations pursued their own narrow self-interests. As whale populations diminished, whaling became uneconomical, and one after another, the whaling nations hung up their harpoons. By the late 1960s and early 1970s, as environmental awareness increased, these former whaling countries began to push for whale conservation.

A commercial moratorium on whaling came into effect in 1986. In 1994, the creation of a whale sanctuary in the Southern Ocean was passed.

Humpback Whale in the Indian Ocean

Countries such as Iceland, Norway, and Japan continue to ignore the 1986 moratorium on commercial whaling, and whale under the clause in the IWC text that allows whaling for scientific and research purposes. As a result, tons of unused whale meat ends up in freezers every year.

Why Tanzania?

Why will Tanzania listen to us? This small country benefits greatly from tourists visiting the Serengeti and whale-watching in the Indian Ocean, which is already an IWC designated whale sanctuary. Tanzania has taken incredible steps to protect its own wildlife. Thereare more than 40 Tanzanian whale watching boats operating in the Indian Ocean which has long been a whale sanctuary declared by the IWC. So Greenpeace wassurprised and disappointed when Tanzania voted against the South Atlantic whale sanctuary when it was proposed at the IWC’s previous meeting in 2012.

Read the letter toTanzanian President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete

Tanzanias vote was all about money yet a blow to the country’s economy which relies on healthy oceans and active wildlife.If the Tanzanian government chooses to side with Japan — again — it needs to know that it risks losing tourism dollars from the thousands of nature lovers who visit their wildlife preserves and go whale watching in Tanzania every year.

Take action to support the South Atlantic Whale Sanctuary

Phil Kline

By Phil Kline

Phil is a senior oceans campaigner at Greenpeace USA. He is a recognized expert on oceans policy domestically and internationally, and has represented Greenpeace U.S. at International Whaling Commission (IWC) meetings and Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission meetings around the globe.

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