Misguided Morality: The Repercussions of the International Whaling Commission?S Shift from a Policy of Regulation to One of Preservation

Posted: 4 May 2000

See all articles by Sarah Suhre

Sarah Suhre

Georgetown University Law Center


In 1982, the International Whaling Commission (IWC) instituted a complete moratorium on commercial whaling in an effort to stop the continued depletion of the world?s whale stocks. This ban continues today. While it was probably a necessary action at the time, the continuance of a total moratorium can no longer be justified in light of scientific evidence showing that some whale stocks exist in numbers sufficient to withstand hunting on a sustainable basis. Because science can no longer support the ban, many anti-whaling activists now use morality-based arguments to defend it. Such arguments, while admirable, do not present a sufficient justification for preventing countries like Japan and Norway, which have relied on whaling for centuries, from hunting on a sustainable basis those whales that exist in plentiful numbers.

Japan and Norway, increasingly frustrated with the IWC?s moratorium and preservationist outlook, have threatened to follow the lead of other pro-whaling nations such as Iceland and withdraw from the Commission. Such a withdrawal could spell disaster for the IWC because it would eliminate the organization?s ability to regulate two of the largest whaling nations in the world. And, without the IWC to regulate the whalers, the whales would again be in danger of severe over harvesting. In order to prevent the withdrawal of its pro-whaling nations and protect the whales, the IWC must compromise with Japan, Norway and others. One possible compromise would be to lift the moratorium to the extent that Japan, Norway and other whaling nations would be allowed to hunt minke whales commercially on a sustainable basis. Another possible compromise would be to grant Japan and Norway a quota of minke whales under the IWC?s aboriginal subsistence whaling exception which allows limited whaling by those with a long history of whaling for cultural and nutritional purposes. Regardless of the solution that is eventually chosen, the bottom line is clear: the IWC must compromise with the whalers, or the whales will surely pay the price.

JEL Classification: K33

Suggested Citation

Suhre, Sarah, Misguided Morality: The Repercussions of the International Whaling Commission?S Shift from a Policy of Regulation to One of Preservation. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=219148

Sarah Suhre (Contact Author)

Georgetown University Law Center ( email )

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