Session Topic

May 23- Whaling

Click here to read the themes raised by the panel discussion on May 23


Dr. William Burns: Monterey Intitute and American Society of International Law

Herman Belmar: Northern Grenadine Directorate, Bequia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines

Dr. Carole Carlson: IWC Scientific Committee and Independent Researcher

Dr. Nathalie Ward: Eastern Caribbean Cetacean Network and Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary

Background lecture: International conflict over marine resource issues. Time allowed for class work on projects

For the last 40 years, the International Whaling Commission has been the arena for heated conflict between whale advocates and whaling nations such as Japan, Norway and Iceland. Important issues before the IWC include scientific whale hunting by whaling nations, whaling in Caribbean nations, and aboriginal rights to whale traditional whale hunts. This issue not only allows us to explore international conflict, it raises difficult questions as we seek to resolve conflict in the marine realm: Are some conflicts simply unresolvable? If so, can we agree to disagree? In such cases, how would we define success or recognize solutions?


Ellis, Richard. 1991. Men and Whales. New York: The Lyons Press. For a thorough overview of modern conflicts over whaling, read chapters 11, 12 and 13, pp. 386-500. For a more brief introduction, read chapter 12, pp. 434-456, and part of chapter 13, pp. 469-500. Available in museum library.

Porter, G., Brown, J.W., Chasek, P.S., Global Environmental Politics, 3e. “Whaling.” Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press, 2000, p. 93-98. Available in museum library.

Nathalie F.R. Ward, Blows, Mon, Blows! A history of Bequia Whaling. Gecko Productions, 1995. To purchase this book send $15 + $2.00 shipping) to: Gecko Productions, Inc. P.O. Box 573 Woods Hole, MA 02543 USA. This book is also available at the West Dennis Library and can be requested via the CLAMS network. The museum library will have one after our May 23, 2006 session

International Whaling Commission website offers a great deal of information about whaling, including science, IWC meeting summaries, text of the convention, and news:

"The Whale Hunters," by Sebastian Junger, Outside Magazine, October, 1995.

World Council of Whalers website offers lots of info from the perspective of whalers, including publications on commercial whaling, aboriginal whaling, lots of useful links, and recipes!

"Opposition to Whaling - Arguments and Ethics, " a Norwegian Fisheries Minister writes about the debate over whaling:

Eastern Caribbean Cetacean Network website:

International Fund for Animal Welfare website with links to information on their anti-whaling activities:

Greenpeace Save the Whales Campaign website:

Whaling Library, an interesting collection of articles and essays from many of today's leading voices, both for (mostly for) and against whaling:

The Future of Cetaceans in a Changing World, William C.G. Burns and Alexander Gillespie (editors) 2003, Transnational Publishers, Ardsley, N.Y. ISBN 1-57105-262-3.

Teacher Resources:

“A Whale of a Difference: Exploring Different Perspectives on Commercial Whaling in Japan.” New York Times Daily Lesson Plan, May 29, 2002 by Annissa Hambouz, The New York Times Learning Network, and Tanya Yasmin Chin, The Bank Street College of Education in New York City. searchpv=learning_lesson


Themes from the May 23rd session on Whaling

At each session, we note themes arising in the panel discussion in four categories: problem definition, goals (individual, organizational and for the process itself), sources of conflict, and potential solutions. The list is meant to aid in further discussion on the topic and is not meant to be exhaustive or definitive. Themes were noted by Saving Seas instructor Tora Johnson drawing upon her notes on the discussion.

Conservation of whale population
Treatment of whales
Need for food and economic security among developing nations and aboriginal groups
Desire to perpetuate whaling traditions and industries

Healthy whale populations
Humane treatment of whales
Food and economic security
Sustainable whaling industry

Sources of Conflict
Whaling will never be purely a scientific problem: emotional, psychological, economic
Disingenuousness on all sides
Vote stacking by large and wealthy nations on both sides
Lack of leadership in IWC
Lack of transparency on all sides; closed-door negotiations
“The sky is always falling on the IWC:” crisis mentality
Conservation is a luxury that only wealthy nations can afford
Dysfunctional international process
Open vs. secret ballots on IWC
IWC seldom adopts recommendations from scientific technical committee
Fundamental disagreement among stakeholders on ethical questions
Whales are “poker chips:” IWC is one among many international arenas in which nations assert their influence and sovereignty regarding fisheries and ocean policy

Regional treaties that recognize local issues and realities and can avoid cumbersome global negotiations
Collaboration and cooperation among stakeholders across boundaries
Leadership that leads to creative solutions
Dissolve IWC??
Lift moratorium once conditions are met???, because quota procedure is very conservative

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