Less or More Protection Needed for Whales? A Note from Ann Novek
There have been persistent rumours in the international wildlife community that some whales are going to be removed from the IUCN Red List.
Probably this rumour origins from the High North Alliance’s press release’entitled ‘Whales off the Red List’ which included comment:
“The IUCN World Conservation Union has removed several species of whales from its Red List of threatened species.
The World Conservation’s Union’s action has placed a number of whales species into the Least Concern category for “widespread and abundant species”.
The Red List contains three threatened categories: ‘Critically Endangered’, ‘Endangered’ and ‘Vulnerable’.
According to the High North Alliance, the main target for the whale hunting, the minke whale, is transferred to the ‘Least Concern’ category. Other species placed on the ‘Least Concern’ List , included beluga , narwhal, white-beaked dolphin, Atlantic white-sided dolphin and common porpoises.
Humpbacks were transferred from ‘Vulnerable’ to ‘Least Concern’.
The downlisting has been mentioned a few times in Norwegian fisheries media, and as far as I have understood, David@Tokyo, pointed out that this was mentioned in a Japanese paper as well.
However, Greenpeace pointed out that these removals of whales from the Red List has not yet been “official” and no statements on this have yet been made on the IUCN website.
I personally have no experience of the political play behind the scenes and I have no clue why no official statement has not yet been made.
What I personally believe is that this is such a sensitive and politically charged issue and no statements will be made in the near future due to pressure from NGOs and some anti whaling nations. Of course this is only speculation from my side.
Finally the whalers believe that a downlisting of whales will make whaling more internationally acceptable and making trade in whale products easier.
Jeff Thomas writing for the San Jose Mercury has commented that humpback stocks are recovering , so the marine scientists are pondering a controversial question:
“Is it time for the whales, hunted to near-extinction in the 20th century, to have less protection under the federal Endangered Species Act?”
The answer is probably “yes” , but there will be resistance , said Jay Barkow , a NOAA marine biologist.
Most of the resistance to change the protected status for the whales come from NGOs. They are afraid that people will think then it’s OK to hunt whales.
Greenpeace is even more hard on this issue:
“ Whales need stronger protection , not reduced protection.”
“ A reduction in protection by a conservation-minded country like the US is something that Japan would make great political points out of”.
However, some people say it’s good for the credibility of the Endangered Species Act as well for the IUCN , to remove/delist/downlist animals when appropriate.