Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Politics of Whaling

Attempting to Solve a Tragedy of the Global Commons
By Timothy Murphy
Timothy Murphy is a third year student at Albany Law School and graduate of Manhattan College where he majored in English and minored in Philosophy. While studying at Manhattan, Tim spent a semester at the National University of Ireland, Galway. At Albany Law School, Tim serves as the Executive Vice President of the Student Bar Association and President of the Ethics Committee, and he is a member of the Moot Court Trial team.
Tim has interned at the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office in the Family Violence and Sexual Assault Unit, the Attorney General Office’s Environmental Protection Bureau, and the Law Offices of James G. Doyle in Saratoga. He is currently clerking with Judge Kretser in the Albany City Court.
This paper was  prepared for Prof. James Gathii’s Public International Law class, Spring 2012.

It is undeniable that whales hold a special place in the western psyche as a symbol of environmental conservation and natural beauty. To argue only that whaling is a sinister practice, however, would be to ignore such important factors as cultural independence, national sovereignty, and scientific research among other vital human concerns.

The hunting of whales has brought the population of many whale species to such a level that even pro-whaling countries agree that humanity has an obligation to work towards restoring their numbers. Human mismanagement of the Earth’s natural resources is evident in the depletion of one species of whale after another.

This paper will begin by examining the great strides made by humanity since the “dark ages” of commercial whaling, analyzing the international laws and policies which brought this about, and pointing out the major actors in this process. It will then proceed to argue that, while the current system is preferable to open whaling, it is severely broken.

This is by no means an anti-whaling paper. The goal of this paper is to argue that the current international system in place for the protection of whale species, namely the International Whaling Commission (hereinafter referred to as the IWC), is ineffective and must be either reformed or replaced in order to ensure that the earth’s cetacean species return to pre-exploitation numbers without causing further international turmoil.

Western states wish to turn a treaty built for the manageable hunting and exploitation of whales into one that is built purely for whale conservation. In doing so, western states are delegitimizing the treaty and causing tension between states.

A preferable alternative would be to draft a new treaty from a conservationist standpoint, realizing that commercial whaling should be a thing of the past. While whaling states may balk at such a treaty, they would be required to continue the moratorium on endangered, threatened, or young whales.

In exchange for being able to hunt certain whale species under specific quotas, whaling states must commit to assist in ending noise pollution, ocean pollution, inhumane killing practices, and habitat destruction. In addition, any whaling state must honor international whaling sanctuaries that are already in place and any that will be formed in the future.

This compromising treaty would satisfy the interests of all parties, foster a legitimate and stable international treaty for the regulation of whaling, and most importantly bring the populations of the earth’s whales back from the brink.
To read the paper, open HERE.