A decades-long proposal to create a whale sanctuary in the South Atlantic Ocean has been thwarted yet again, with 25 pro-whaling nations blocking the motion at the International Whaling Commission (IWC) in Brazil earlier this week.
The sanctuary, proposed by Brazil and co-sponsored by Argentina, Gabon, and South Africa, was first deliberated in 1998 and lost its first vote in 2001. Their idea: to provide a safe space for whales, where the cetaceans are protected from human-related threats like whaling and shipping equipment. It would also allow for "non-lethal and non-extractive" scientific research, reports CNN.
"As minister for the environment in a country with 20 percent of the world's biodiversity in its forests, we feel highly responsible for the stewardship of our wealth, for the whole world, and this goes for cetaceans as well," Edson Duarte, Brazil’s environment minister, told an audience of delegates, reports AFP.
Had it gone through it would be the third whale sanctuary recognized by the IWC and its 89 member states, one of which is in the Indian Ocean and the other is in the Southern Ocean, close to Antarctica.
But to pass it needed the votes of at least three-quarters of the member states – and it failed, receiving just 39 instead. Three countries abstained and the remaining 25 countries, including pro-whaling nations Norway, Japan, and Russia, actively voted against it.
Their reason for doing so? Apparently, there isn't the science to back it up. They added that it wasn't needed because commercial whaling does not take place in the South Atlantic, which is strictly speaking true but only in an extremely limited and technical sense.
This is not the first time the sanctuary has been proposed and no doubt it won't be the last time. Duarte has already said it is not the end, reports The Guardian. “We will work in other meetings of this commission this year to ensure that the sanctuary will finally be created,” he said.
“It so important for the conservation of whales in the entire world but especially in the South Atlantic.”
But many have said it will be impossible to do so without the backing of the pro-whaling nations and to gain that support there will have to be concessions. This may include the reintroduction of at least some commercial whaling, a practice that has been completely prohibited since the installation of a ban in 1980. Not that that ban hasn't been routinely flouted by countries deciding the rule does not apply to them. (Or under the dubious guise of "scientific research".)