Why Is President Obama Still Supporting Whale Slaughter

It’s great that President Obama is finally starting to acknowledge the severity of the situation in the Gulf of Mexico. Now he needs to get real about another serious threat to marine life: the return of commercial whaling.

So far the United States is supporting the proposal before the International Whaling Commission that would oxymoronically allow commercial whaling to resume in order to save whales. The proposal’s fate will be decided at the IWC’s meeting in Agadir, Morocco on June 20th.

Obama’s tougher stance towards offshore drilling comes after more than a month of BP-led spill response efforts that, at best, can be described as blundering and ineffective. At worst, they have been entirely self-serving and grossly negligent of obligations to protect Gulf coast ecosystems and communities. Luckily, there is a much better corporate example for Obama to follow in the fight to save the whales.

Maersk, the world’s largest shipping company, responsible for transporting approximately 20% of the world’s entire ocean-going seafood supply, recently announced that it would no longer carry any whale meat or whale blubber on its ships. Of course it’s not just whales that are in serious trouble thanks to overfishing, and Maersk has also announced that it will refuse to ship several other endangered species, including Chilean sea bass, orange roughy, and shark products of any sort. This is a great, proactive move by Maersk, one that is very welcome news for the oceans and their inhabitants. Obama should follow Maersk’s lead.

I should probably have said, “there is a much better corporate example for Obama to follow in the fight to save the whales… AGAIN” because the commercial whaling moratorium was established in 1986 by the IWC and has been in place ever since. Though a few countries — most notably Japan — have openly flouted the ban, many whale populations are on the rebound thanks to the moratorium:

  • Blue whales are increasing by 8.2% a year.
  • Southern right whales are increasing by 7% a year.
  • Humpback whales are increasing 3.1% a year in the Northwest Atlantic, 11-12% a year in the Southern hemisphere, and 7% a year in the Northeast Pacific.
  • Eastern gray whales have increased from only a few hundred in the early 1900’s to more than 20,000 today.
  • Fin whales, which Japan continues to hunt, are not increasing in population but their rapid decline towards extinction has been halted.

The moratorium is working, and Obama should be working to stop countries like Japan from violating it rather than working with them to legitimize their whaling operations. Australia is taking legal action to stop Japan’s whaling efforts in the Southern Ocean on the grounds that they violate the international ban on commercial whaling — there’s another lead Obama should be following.

There’s certainly plenty of support for upholding the ban in the U.S.A. — so much, in fact, that you gotta wonder what Obama’s angle is on this issue. Over 150,000 Americans have signed Greenpeace’s online petition calling on Obama to stop supporting the resumption of commercial whaling. Meanwhile, an end to the commercial whaling moratorium benefits no one but the countries that have been willfully violating the ban all along, so there’s absolutely no reason to take them at their word that they’ll obey reduced quotas in return for an IWC  stamp of approval for their whaling programs. And, frankly, why would we reward their unconscionable behavior in the first place?

Several of my colleagues in Washington, D.C. will be rallying in Lafayette Square, across from the White House, at noon on June 3rd. They’ll be handing off the whales petition signatures along with the amazing “Save the whales” photo petitions submitted by Greenpeace supporters. If you can’t join them in DC, you can still add your voice by signing the petition right here on Change.org calling on Obama to say no to commercial whaling.

Image credit: Tim Aubry/Greenpeace

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