Report from Whale
Killing Methods Workshop at IWC 55 Berlin
Monday 9th June 03
The US has again supplied no time to death (TTD) data for their
‘ aboriginal’ Bowhead hunt and presented a short paper on the
controversial Makah hunt (IWC/55/WK2) saying ’The tribe’s
overall hunting methods are humane’. The Makah tribe killed a
single whale in 1999 ‘within eight minutes’. No further
hunting has taken place due to ongoing legal challenges from NGOs.
No time to death (TTD) data was supplied by Japan for
‘scientific& #8217; whaling for Brydes, sei or sperm whales.
Obviously, the data is likely to be so bad that Japan doesn’t
want to present it. The Japanese do not use a larger grenade for
these species, and for animals double the size of minkes the TTD
is likely to be much longer than the average 2.5 minutes the
Japanese claim for minkes in their 'scientific' whaling.
A Japanese paper (IWC/55/WK24) dismisses any movements of
whales, including one that ‘violently swam and showed frantic
movement with repeated breaching’, by saying ‘It was
assumed that the behaviour of the harpooned whale was a kind of
unconscious reflex movement’. The line ‘It was assumed
that the whale moved unconsciously’ is repeated in six examples
cited from their Antarctic 'research' programme under two
where post-mortem examination concluded that the central nervous
or the heart of the whale, was destroyed by the harpoon detonation.
Clearly the Japanese are trying to suggest that most reported TTDs
overestimates by the gunners and death is virtually instantaneous.
of course is nonsense, not least because the gunners avoid the
order to preserve the ear-plugs of the whales. The whales are
moving because they are alive, and in agony.
A UK paper (WK18) and ‘Report of the International Scientific
Workshop on Sentience and Potential Suffering in Hunted Whales’
15/16 June 01) produced by the RSPCA, questioning the efficacy of
criteria for the onset of insensibility and death in whales is
timely and extremely important. Whereas the Norwegians presented
several papers and have at least made efforts to reduce TTD, there
obviously a very long way to go with the Japanese, and with
the humaneness of aboriginal hunts by native communities for large
small whales. It seems at least that the Japanese have abandoned
use of the ineffectual and cruel electric lance as a secondary
method and are using rifles instead.
Denmark and Russia have not produced any TTD for beluga and other
cetacean hunts but the reported TTDs for fin and minke whales
from 7 minutes –300 minutes for minkes and 5-25 min for fins (
which seems unlikely). Denmark (Greenland and the Faroes) refused
supply data to the IWC WKM workshop arguing predictably that small
cetaceans are outside the competence of the IWC. For pilot-whaling
the Faroes a new round-headed gaffe is being used which is
into the blowhole and used to pull the whale to the boat, or the
shallows, so that the knife can be used to cut down into the neck
sufficiently so that the whales’ thrashings break the spinal
chord and/or it bleeds to death. It is extremely arguable whether
is a more humane method than the hooked gaffe as the blowhole
obstruction must increase stress for the animal and pulling on the
gaffe must cause extreme pain - perhaps the equivalent of dragging
human being around by the nostrils.
The controversial Russian ‘aboriginal’ hunt for 140 gray
whales has produced some of the worst TTDs of any hunts including
bullets used to kill a single animal in 1999. During the 2001
an average of 54 bullets were used per animal with an average TTD
minutes and a maximum of 87 (IWC55/ WK22). This of course remains
appallingly cruel hunt.
St Vincent and the Grenadines provides no data on TTD for humpback
whales killed in its increased and controversial aboriginal hunt
to 4 whales per year. However, a cold harpoon, an eight-foot lance,
bomb lance and shoulder gun may be used to kill the animal
methods are inefficient and death times extremely prolonged.
The Norwegians produced several papers including research in to
damage caused by penthrite harpoon detonations, and the efficacy
high-caliber rifles for secondary killing. One report examines TTD
improvements citing the 1998 season, when 625 minke whales were
with 64% (400 whales) reported instantaneously killed and an
TTD of over 3 minutes and a maximum of 68 min.
In 2002, the figures for 634 minke whales recorded were that 80.7%
died ‘instantaneously’ with an average TTD of 2min 21 sec
and a maximum of 90 minutes. For the past three years: 1667 whales
have been taken by Norway of which 79.7% were instantaneously
1328), with an average TTD of 2 mins 17 secs.
However, given that the IWC criteria for insensibility and death
open to question, the reliability of such figures, particularly
of an ‘instantaneous’ death, must be in considerable doubt.
Nevertheless, whatever improvements may have been made in killing
methods, death times and suffering in whaling operations continue
a major concern and argument against the killing of such highly
The Japanese walked out of the meeting when the UK’s Protocol
collection of welfare data was discussed. The Norwegians tried to
that such data should be voluntary and not a requirement under the
8217;s Revised Management Scheme (RMS) being developed for any
resumption of commercial whaling. The UK dismissed these arguments
saying it revealed how uncooperative the whalers were being over
RMS and that the WKM Workshop was not the place to discuss RMS
The UK said the agenda item was for discussing the collection of
that could be used to assess welfare and that the WKM Workshop was
appropriate forum to discuss that.
The UK also presented a paper on ‘The Potential Stress Effects
Whaling Operations and the Welfare Implications For Hunted
8217; (WK19) that raises the question that hunted whales may
suffer injury and possibly die from stress even if they escape the
harpoon. The Norwegians ridiculed this paper, and the Icelanders
sarcastically suggested that if chasing from boats was a problem
whales then whale-watching would also be a stressful experience
whales. The Norwegians did reveal that minke whales are curious
often approach the whaling boats.
Finally, under ‘any other business’ the Icelanders were
asked what methods would be used to kill the whales in their
year, 500 whale (100 minke, 100 fin and 50 sei) ‘scientific’
whaling programme. Interestingly, the Icelandic Commissioner
the question saying no decision has yet been taken to conduct the
Rumour has it the Icelanders are under more pressure now that the
‘objected’ to their reservation to the moratorium.
Although this does not effect Iceland’s ‘scientific’
whaling per se, they are obviously keeping their options open and
not want to attract further criticism by admitting they will use
cold’ harpoons to kill the whales (Iceland has no grenade
harpoons). This would technically be in breach of IWC rules as
did not include an ‘objection’ to the cold harpoon ban in
its successful renewed membership application last year.
Finally, when the subject was raised, delegates were astonished to
the Japanese complain that importing more powerful Norwegian
harpoons to improve TTDs for the larger whales would be too costly
3 times more expensive than using their own. In a paper (WK23)
complained that Norwegian grenades cost ‘$764 apiece’ while
the Japanese version was only ‘$175.‘ However, the
Norwegian grenade can be reused if the whale is missed while the
Japanese harpoon cannot. The cost of a whale taken by Japan was
estimated at $270 and the report concluded that ‘The financial
aspect related to the selection of grenades should be considered
carefully as we proceed with research or start future commercial
Andy Ottaway at IWC 55 Berlin
On behalf of Campaign Whale and the Global Whale Alliance
Monday 9th June 03
AUSTRALIA CONTESTS ICELAND’S RESERVATION TO WHALING BAN
Australia has lodged an official document objecting to Iceland’s reservation to
the international ban on commercial whaling.
Following a 10-year absence from the International Whaling Commission (IWC),
Iceland was readmitted to the IWC last October at a Special Meeting in Cambridge,
UK. Iceland’s readmission was made with a reservation against the international moratorium on
commercial whaling, allowing it to commence commercial whaling after 2006 and to conduct scientific
whaling at an earlier date.
Prior to withdrawing from the IWC in 1992, Iceland was subject to the global
Iceland's reservation to the whaling ban threatens to “render the Convention
meaningless,” said David Kemp, Australia’s Minister for the Environment and Heritage. Kemp added that the
reservation could “set a precedent that could have negative consequences for the orderly development of
international law and could possibly undermine the authority of other international conventions.” This
issue will be addressed at the next IWC annual
meeting, which is scheduled to be held in Berlin this June. Australia has indicated
that it will continue to champion the cause of putting an end to commercial
whaling and promote the establishment of a South Pacific Whale Sanctuary.
Lack of consensus on whether to allow limited commercial hunting has
stalemated discussions at the 49-member Commission. In a recent meeting in
Tokyo, whaling nations reiterated their position on ending the IWC’s whaling
moratorium. Norwegian whaling commissioner Odd Gunnar Skagestad critiqued the
IWC, stating that it has
“lost so much relevance and so much credibility that it certainly gives the
impression that it is on its last legs,” while Japanese Fisheries Agency
official Joji Morishita described the
IWC as dysfunctional.
Links to further information
Environmental News Network, 13 February 2003
Environmental News Service,
12 February 2003