The IUCN Academy of Environmental Law series
Chapter 6: Whaling and Dealing: Aboriginal Subsistence Whaling, Politics and Poverty
* Ed Couzens 6.1 INTRODUCTION: ABORIGINAL SUBSISTENCE WHALING GENERALLY Around the world, a number of aboriginal groups such as the Inuit/Eskimo people and the Makah Indian tribe1 in the United States and the Chukotka people in Russia hunt and kill whales. This aboriginal subsistence whaling (ASW) is exempt from the International Whaling Commission (IWC) 1982 ‘moratorium’2 on commercial whaling. The ASW exemption was placed in the 1946 International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling, signed at Washington, 2 December 1946 (ICRW), to preserve aboriginal cultures for which whaling was culturally significant and to alleviate poverty among those peoples. Although ASW is exempt from the moratorium, the IWC places annual quotas on aboriginal takes.3 Currently, there is controversy over whether four Japanese coastal communities should be classified as aboriginal subsistence whalers – at present they are not. Opponents of such recognition claim that these communities engage in commercial whaling, rather than aboriginal subsistence whaling; Japan maintains that the distinction is artificial. Japan, for instance, explained at the 46th annual meeting of the IWC that it held the view that ‘its small-type whaling had the same characteristics as aboriginal subsistence whaling’ and that ‘hence a similar treatment should be considered’ (IWC, 1994, p. 17). According to Komatsu and Misaki, commercial whaling is ‘a straightforward proposition: whaling undertaken for financial gain made through selling the catch’; and that one would presume therefore that ‘it would then differ from aboriginal subsistence whaling, which you would not expect to be based upon financial transactions’. However, they contend,...
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