France Stands Up for the Whales
Jean-Louis Borloo calls for a strong and ambitious European Union stand on the Protection of Whales
The International Whaling Commission (IWC), which is responsible for the conservation of whale species, is meeting in Agadir, Morocco, 21 to 25 June.
Despite the moratorium on commercial whaling that was adopted in 1982, various types of whaling still take place: whaling under scientific permits, whaling "under objection" (commercial whaling) and aboriginal subsistence whaling. Only the last is subject to IWC quotas.
To put an end to many years of confrontation between pro- and anti-whaling countries, the Chair and Vice Chair of the IWC proposed a compromise that aims to put all whaling operations under the control of the IWC, to strengthen the power of the IWC and to focus its work on conservation.
Jean-Louis Borloo, Minister of Ecology, Energy, Sustainable Development and the Sea welcomes the constructive spirit of the proposed compromise and its objectives, but makes no bones about some concerns: "As it is, the proposal does not preclude international trade of whale products, does not stop whaling in sanctuaries or eliminate scientific whaling. It does not put an end to the regime of objections and reservations that allows countries not to implement some parts of the agreement."
The European Union did not adopt a common position in mid-June, so Jean-Louis Borloo made a personal commitment to this issue and wrote to the Spanish Minister, President of the European Union, and the Danish Minister (whose country supports the continuation of whaling) to request that the European Union take a unique, strong and ambitious position in Agadir.
According to the Minister, "The compromise proposal will not be acceptable unless it provides for effective protection of the whales, prohibition of trade in whale products, the limitation of whaling activities to subsistence whaling for indigenous people and, finally, a timetable to put an end to all whaling activities."
Subsequent to the work in which France has participated actively, the European Union takes the following positions:
- In favor of the central role of the Scientific Committee and scientifically based quotas (calculated according to the latest published version of the Revised Management Procedure);
- Against any new type of whaling except strictly for local consumption and for of limiting any consumption of whale products to local consumption (consistent with our commitments to the CITES);
- For a phasedown then phaseout of all whaling in the northern hemisphere that is not in conformity with the moratorium on commercial whaling within an agreed timetable;
- For a phasedown then phaseout within an agreed timetable of all whaling in the Southern Ocean, sanctuaries being areas that must be fully preserved;
- Against any proposal for whaling on endangered species in the Southern Ocean Sanctuary;
- In favor of keeping the rules that apply to Aboriginal Subsistence Whaling;
- In favor of a mechanism and a timetable to review IWC processes, so that all activities, including scientific whaling and whaling under objections and reservations, would be under the control of the IWC.
- In favor of including a clause making the compromise decision null and void if any government takes an objection.
"I think the European position is not as strong as I personally would prefer, even though the Spanish Presidency has been attentive to the objections of the United Kingdom, Germany and France, in particular," said the Minister.
During a telephone conversation this morning between Jean-Louis Borloo and Caroline Spelman, British Minister for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, who paid tribute to the decisive action of France, the two ministers agreed to pursue their pressure on those European countries that are most reluctant to strengthen the protection of whales (notably Sweden and Denmark). Regarding discussions on the timetable, both ministers want clarification of the timing of a ban on whaling.
In addition, according to the Minister, the moratorium on commercial whaling should be fully confirmed and sanctuaries should be fully respected. The IWC should also establish appropriate monitoring and control mechanisms, and reject any recourse to objections or reservations.
"The IWC should evolve into a tool for conservation; endangered species must be fully protected," he concluded.