There is no doubt that Japanese illegal whaling is a problem. How and why it is a problem varies depending on your perspective, but the simple fact that something is rotten in the Southern Ocean is beyond debate. Whales are having their brains blown apart because of political pigheadedness, anti-whaling activists are causing tremendous economic harm to the whaling fleet, the government in Tokyo is losing face, Japanese taxpayers are wasting their hard-earned money, and sailors and whalers alike are being put in mortal danger by the high-pressure water hoses, butyric acid (which, incidentally, is not strong enough to “burn” anything), long-range acoustic weapons, and other offensive contraptions regularly used in these whale wars (wait — can I say that? Did I violate something?)
Anyhow, it is in everyone’s interest that action is taken to remedy this situation and restore some semblance of order to those frigid, choppy seas. In fact, Kevin Rudd – Prime Minister of Australia, the country in whose waters (as much as Antarctic waters belong to anyone) most of the mayhem occurs – has recently served the Japanese with an ultimatum: cease all whaling in the Southern Ocean by November of 2010, or face a lawsuit at the International Court of Justice. New Zealand, too, has vowed to support Australia’s challenge.
The International Whaling Commission (IWC), a multilateral organization tasked with “managing” whale stocks, has proven to be relatively ineffectual. This is largely due to a voting structure that is quite conducive to electoral fraud. Rich countries are able to bribe tiny nations that have no interest in whaling one way or the other, and since population has no bearing in the IWC – Brazil, for example, has the same weight as Barbados – large, wealthy nations with a vested interest in the outcome of the vote can easily sway things their way with some well-placed deposits.
Since the IWC can’t manage to do its job, it has created a “support group” tasked with finding a way to tame this bugbear. Unfortunately, this support group’s plan – known as the Maquieira Plan after Christian Maquieira, the Chairman of the IWC and the mastermind behind this proposal – is just about the worst possible way to deal with this issue.
How do we solve the problems created by the Japanese scientific whaling program? Maquieira’s answer is simple: we legalize whaling.
I’ll say that again. Japan is illegally killing whales, so we solve that problem by… making it legal to kill whales.
Basically, the Plan proposes that the scientific whaling proviso – by which Japan lamely justifies its whaling enterprise – be stripped from the management regulations set by the IWC, but in exchange, the global moratorium on commercial whaling will be lifted, and those countries that currently hunt whales (Japan, Norway, and Iceland – the three problem-child states that have brazenly defied the rest of the universe for the last twenty-eight years and have continued to kill whales regardless of international law and public opinion) will be awarded kill quotas for at least the next ten years.
The quotas themselves have not yet been set, but they will include minke, humpback, and endangered fin whales — just like the ones that are currently being hunted. So basically, Chairman Maquieira’s eponymous plan is palm-meets-forehead moronic because it does absolutely nothing. It is also palm-meets-forehead brilliant, however, as it makes the reprehensible actions of the Japanese fleet legal, and thus no further “illegal activity” will be taking place in the Southern Ocean. Problem solved!
Maquieria’s Plan is not about saving whales. It’s about helping governments save face, and giving the policymakers in Tokyo a way out of this mess at the expense of the planet. Sure, there’s still blood in the water… and we’ll still have warehouses full of unwanted whale meat… and Japanese tax dollars will continue to fund an anachronistic, backwards industry… but hey, at least the politicians get to retain their pride, right?
Thankfully, no one has been fooled by this laughable piece of idiocy. Canberra roundly rejected the Plan and reiterated Rudd’s ultimatum. Moreover, environmental groups like Greenpeace have pulled no punches in calling it out as the absolute waste of paper that it is.
Whaling in the Southern Ocean is illegal for a reason — it is an unsustainable and environmentally devastating enterprise. Solving the problem of illegal whaling by legalizing it is like trying to reduce the rate of gun-related homicide by stabbing everyone to death.
We will end illegal whaling. We will do it, though, by saving whales – not by saving politicians.