Lethal whale «research» programmes produce meat, not answers: WWF

Japan would do better whale research by not killing whales, said WWF on the eve of a key International Whaling Commission planning meeting, WWF delegation head, International Species Programme
Director Dr Susan Lieberman, called on Japan in particular to recognise that science had moved a long way since a provision allowing governments to issue lethal research permits was written
into the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling (ICRW).

The 61 year old provision is the basis of Japan’s so-called scientific whaling programme, which «produces meat but not answers,» Dr Lieberman said.

«At that time, killing whales was the only way to learn some of the most basic biological information, some of which was then used to set catch quotas,» Dr Lieberman said.
«Today, much more plentiful and reliable information is available using the many better new ways of collecting whale data rather than much the same old ways of killing them.

«What sort of scientific enterprise is it that uses the most outdated methodologies to produce little published data, few insights into whales and negligible useful whale management
information?»

For the International Whaling Commission Intersessional meeting, starting in London tomorrow (March 6), WWF is calling on Japan «to stop abusing the special whaling permit provision of
the ICRW by conducting commercial whaling under the guise of research».

«The Contracting Governments of the IWC must ensure that IWC-related research meets modern accepted scientific techniques, so that the IWC’s credibility on this issue is
maintained,» Dr Lieberman said. «The continued abuses of Japan’s whaling programme are an affront to legitimate science.»

Look at non-whaling threats to whales

In its statement to the meeting, WWF is also urging contracting governments to «look more closely and consistently at the non-whaling threats to whales».

Whales face general threats from habitat degradation and climate change, as well as more specific challenges such as being deafened or displaced by the operations of the oil and gas exploration
and development industry, or being caught up and discarded as bycatch by the fishing industry.

«The greatest threat to many cetacean species is bycatch, with estimates showing that more than 300,000 whales and dolphins are killed in fishing gear each year,» Dr Lieberman said.
«Only through swift and cooperative international action to reduce bycatch will some critically endangered cetacean populations be saved.»

WWF’s new bycatch initiative is highlighting the existence of practical, innovative fishing gear designs to reduce bycatch.

Populations of nearly all the great whales remain at depressed levels, a legacy of the unsustainable whaling during the last two centuries.

As long-lived mammals with slow reproductive cycles whales inevitably take several decades or more to recover from population depletion while some populations still survive as a few hundred
individuals at the brink of extinction.

WWF’s goal is to ensure that viable populations of all cetacean species occupy their historical range, and fulfill their role in maintaining the integrity of ocean ecosystems.

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