GERMANY: June 17, 2003

BERLIN - The International Whaling Commission (IWC) holds an annual
meeting in Berlin from June 16-19. Following are facts about whaling:

The IWC, which has about 50 member states, imposed a moratorium on
commercial whaling from 1986 because stocks of many whales like the giant
blue whale were close to extinction.

The IWC allows an exception for subsistence catches of whales for indigenous peoples in places including Greenland, Siberia and the U.S. state of Alaska.

Whaling nations argue that stocks of species like the small minke whale have
recovered enough to allow hunts. Opponents say stock estimates are uncertain
and that humans should respect the planet's biggest mammals by leaving them

Whaling has long stirred strong emotions, from Herman Melville's novel
"Moby Dick" to Greenpeace campaigns to "Save the Whale".


NORWAY - Resumed "commercial" hunts of minke whales in 1993, ignoring
the IWC moratorium. Whalers have so far harpooned more than half a 711 quota
set for 2003. The meat is eaten as steaks.

Oslo further angered opponents of whaling by resuming whale meat exports last year, to Iceland and the Faroe Islands, in defiance of a global trade ban. Planned blubber exports to Japan have been stalled by poisonous PCB chemicals in the whale fat.

JAPAN - Carries out whaling for "scientific research" which Tokyo says is allowed by IWC rules even though opponents call it a cover for commercial
hunts. Japan aims for annual catches of up to 440 minke whales in the Antarctic and smaller numbers of minkes, Brydes and sperm whales in the northwest Pacific. The meat ends up in restaurants and sushi bars.

ICELAND - Wants to resume whaling and plans a "scientific research" catch of
100 fin whales, 100 minkes and 50 sei whales a year.


The IWC will consider a proposal for a "Berlin Initiative" to set up a conservation committee in the IWC. Japan has threatened to walk out, fearing it could make the IWC focus merely on safeguarding whales and shift from its original role of regulating catches.

Whalers reckon the IWC is unlikely to approve a resumption of commercial

whaling this year, saying political opposition in nations like the United States is too strong.




The 55th Annual Meeting of the International Whaling Commission took place from 16-19
June 2003, in Berlin, Germany. Among the meeting’s accomplishments was the formalization of the Commission’s role as a conservation body through Resolution 2003-1,
the Berlin Initiative on Strengthening the Conservation Agenda of the IWC. With votes 25 in favor, 20 against and 1 abstention, it established a Conservation Committee to prepare and make recommendations on the IWC’s conservation agenda.

The Commission also established an intersessional group to explore ways to move the
Revised Management Scheme forward. Two proposals for sanctuaries in the South Pacific
and South Atlantic failed to gain the necessary majorities and were rejected. The Commission rejected a proposal by Japan for catch limits of 150 minke whales and 150
Bryde’s whales to be taken by coastal community-based whaling. On scientific permits, it passed a resolution urging countries to terminate or not to commence special permit catches, and another one asking Japan not to continue its special permit catches of Antarctic minke whales. 

For more information, visit: 

and the meeting’s final press release: