So some twenty six countries have sent a démarche to Iceland, complaining about its whaling. But what will this achieve?
Well in this case actually a lot. Iceland’s accession discussions with the European Union are entering the initial phase where the ‘ground work’ is set out. By indicating their position on whaling so early, the EU countries are stating that Iceland will have to give up whaling if it wants to join.As Iceland benefits from a lot of EU support anyway, its about time that it took on board some of the responsibilities as well as the rights and privileges it already gets in terms of access to the EU markets.
Now when we talk about the International Whaling Commission (IWC) and Convention in Trades in Endangered Species (CITES) where are the teeth? Norway, Iceland and Japan all get to ignore the agreements restrictions, yet get to abuse its freedoms. Article VIII of the ICRW allows nations to set their own so-called ‘scientific whaling’ quotas.
The original drafters included this clause to ensure that some science was done in the industrial level whaling of the 1950’s; there is no evidence they intended it to be a device to circumvent the Convention and allow unbridled quotas to be allocated by one nation. Indeed, the Convention was created to allow nations to work co-operatively and to avoid such independent abuses of ‘grab all you can, as fast as you can’.
What nations have not been able to do, apart through mechanisms such as the European Union’s Directives and Regulations, is agree the enforcement measures needed to ensure compliance to such major agreements. But such compliance is essential.
At a time when the nations of the world are about to meet in Copenhagen for what may be one of the most important climate meetings ever, where agreement and compliance are essential, the whalers continued abuse of their ‘sovereignty’ within the IWC and CITES sets the very worst of examples. Lets hope the EU has the mettle to see through its commitments to protect whales, and set the best of examples.