Whaling – Not That Easy

by Einar Du Rietz

The old issue of whaling seems to be an ever controversial issue, in the EU, as well as internationally. Chris Butler-Stroud,CEO of Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society (WDCS) writes on the subject and is particularly concerned that Denmark still holds on to the Greenland exception.

The ban on whaling dates decades back. Furthermore, commercial whaling, industrial way, is generally acknowledged to be unacceptable. This might be a sound position, given unclear property rights in what is often no mans water.

The three exceptions to the international ban are represented by Japan, Norway and Denmark, an EU country, incidentally also holding the rotating presidency of the EU. Naturally, no whaling goes on right outside Copenhagen. There has been rare sightings up north (even a stranded whale at least once in the area), but basically the strait would be too narrow. For Denmark, it’s an issue of the exception for the – highly autonomous – region Greenland, where – as Butler-Stroud correctly points out – “Historically the IWC  [International Whaling Commission]has granted Greenland an aboriginal subsistence-whaling (ASW) quota based on its hunters’ nutritional and cultural subsistence need – a classification that excludes commercial trade.”

And Greenland is not a member of the EU, in spite of being a part of Denmark.

One should remember that in some parts of the world, practices like whaling can be the sole source of survival. It used to be the close to only business in many of the Azores islands, where, unlike Japan, only traditional methods were used. And it that case, please admit it’s a fair fight. A few good men in an open boat, against the largest mammal in the ocean. I love the Azores, but I’m sad to observe, not the nostalgia, but the sadness, that’s prevalent still years after the ban.  

The sunny side however, is that the Whale Watching industry is going well, and in many cases have had the decency to hire the old whalers as experts.


About the Author: Einar Du Rietz

Einar Du Rietz is a journalist and communications consultant based in Europe. He has authored several environmental reports for the Electrolux Group and written many blogs for the Center for the New Europe at CNE Environment.