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Open letter to the Hon. Chris Carter

Open letter to the hon. chris carter

Dear Sir,
I have just read the News Release “Minister Condemns Iceland...” and your subsequent interview with Radio Pacific’s Bill Ralston.

I thought it was important to send you some information about whaling since you are in a position to comment and you should have the facts to help you in the future.

Although there is a moratorium on commercial whaling, any country that is a member of IWC may, pursuant to Article VIII of the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling (the IWC charter), continue whaling for research under the national laws of their own country. According to Articles 87 and 116 of the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, any country (whether a member of IWC or not) may hunt whales for food or research in their own waters or on the high seas.

Thus Japan is hunting whales legally, under IWC rules and customary international law. You can check this at http://www.iwcoffice.org/iwc.htm. Iceland is also legally entitled to hunt whales.

Regarding your observation that meat from Icelandic whale research was sold in Japanese supermarkets. Yes, under Article VIII (2) of the international whaling convention, the by-product of research whaling must be disposed of in a non-wasteful manner after the scientific needs of the research are satisfied. Ensuring the by-product is utilized as food is arguably the most non-wasteful and rational manner of disposing of the by-product.

With respect, it is not “ridiculous to kill whales to study them”. Indeed, the IWC Scientific Committee has concluded that, for some research purposes, lethal research is still required and that this research provides information that is useful for management purposes. You may check this at www.iecoffice.org/sciperms.htm

The small island nations in the Caribbean are members of IWC because they utilize several species of whales and dolphins for food – and have done so for generations. Together with many other island nations for whom fishing is important for food security and trade purposes, they are concerned that marine resource management remain science-based and reflect a multi-species approach. This requires that the role of marine mammals as major marine predator be studied by the appropriate means.

Russia and the United States of America have always been, and remain, whaling nations. Today, “Russian” whaling is more accurately described as “Chukotkan” whaling, in reference to the Chukotka region of North-Eastern Siberia, the territory of the indigenous Chukchi and Yup'iit peoples.

The United States no longer supports a large-scale whaling industry, but nevertheless remains a whaling nation. In addition to the small Makah gray whale hunt, Alaskan Eskimos continue their unbroken tradition of whaling for bowhead, gray, and beluga whales, as they both have done for millennia.

Again, with respect, whales are not “a very endangered species”. There are many species of non-endangered whales, and many species continue to be hunted. However, no species of whale has become extinct as a result of modern whaling (the last whale species to become extinct disappeared in the 17th century through uncertain causes). Current whale fisheries only take small numbers of whales from abundant populations of non-endangered species of whales. Whales are a renewable resource, and harvests that take a small proportion of the annual increase enable the hunted populations to continue to grow in numbers.

The fin whale might reasonably be classified as depleted or vulnerable, but the North Atlantic populations are not in any sense endangered or biologically threatened by Icelandic research. The North Atlantic stocks number from 20,000 - 35,000, with tens of thousands more occurring in the North Pacific and the Southern Oceans. The 70 that Iceland might take from the North Atlantic represents a fraction of 1 percent of the robust Iceland-E. Greenland stock numbering in excess of 11,000 – the assessment of which is the best of any fin whale population.
Please check out our website www.worldcouncilofwhalers.com I think you will find the information in the “Whaling Around the World” section most useful. In this section all of the whaling nations of the world are listed. New Zealand is included as it has a long history of utilizing whales for food and trade.

I would be pleased to answer any questions you have in the future.


Tom Mexsis Happynook,
Chairman, World Council of Whalers

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