The Legal Effect of Greenland’s Unilateral Aboriginal Subsistence Whale Hunt
51 Pages Posted: 2 Jul 2019
Date Written: 2015
For three decades, discussions within the International Whaling Commission (IWC) have focused on the moratorium on commercial whaling and Japan’s scientific research whaling. However, in 2012, the IWC rejected Greenland’s request for an aboriginal subsistence whaling (ASW) quota, citing concerns about the hunt’s size and commercial aspects (some whale meat is sold in restaurants), and questioning Greenland’s estimates for the yield of meat from each whale. When Greenland unilaterally granted itself an ASW quota for 2013 and 2014 and killed at least 196 whales in 2013, it helped establish ASW as a new flash point for the IWC. Many IWC members objected to Greenland’s unilateral establishment of an ASW quota, stating that the IWC regulations only authorize the IWC to approve ASW quotas. Many IWC members also believe that Greenland’s hunt in 2013 and 2014 constituted a punishable infraction and that Denmark, due to its relationship with Greenland, must prosecute and punish those involved in the hunt. Because other IWC members disagree, the issue went unresolved at the IWC’s meeting in 2014 and the issue was moved to a committee to resolve.
This article concludes, based on an analysis of the ordinary meaning of the ICRW and the IWC’s regulations found in the ICRW’s Schedule, that only the IWC may approve ASW quotas and that IWC members may not conduct ASW in the absence of an IWC-approved quota. Paragraph 13 of the Schedule allows whaling only if all substantive conditions for ASW have been met. These conditions require, among other things, that the IWC adopt a quota for each season. Consequently, Greenland’s unauthorized killing of whales pursuant to a unilaterally established ASW quota constitutes an infraction, either for violating the IWC’s moratorium on commercial whaling or as unauthorized ASW. Denmark has thus acted inconsistently with the ICRW and its Schedule by allowing Greenland to conduct ASW in 2013 and 2014 in the absence of an IWC-approved quota and by failing to report Greenland’s hunt as an infraction. Denmark must take action to prosecute and punish those involved in the hunt.
Keywords: Aboriginal Subsistence Whaling, Greenland, IWC, ICRW, Schedule
JEL Classification: K32, K33
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation