Defining Issues in International Environmental Law
New Horizons in Environmental and Energy Law series
Chapter 3: Environmental Threats to Cetaceans and the Limits of the IWC
1 INTRODUCTION Traditionally, the greatest threat to cetaceans was overharvesting. In the present and future, it is likely that whales, dolphins and porpoises will face different threats, less visible, but just as deadly as the traditional forms of whaling that have commonly led to their overexploitation. The new threat is environmental change. That is, in the twenty-first century, environmental changes may now be the greatest threat facing the overall survival of a number of species (not just whales) that inhabit the water, of which cetaceans are one of the more apparent.1 As such, understanding the health and management of the oceans that cetaceans inhabit is essential to any meaningful comprehension of the scope of the problems ahead in the coming decades. This chapter has two objectives. The first is to examine the environmental threats that are posed to cetaceans. The second goal is to display the way the international community has begun to deal with them. It is necessary to examine the broader response of the international community in general, as ultimately, the resolution of most of these difficulties will be achieved in other issue-specific forums, and not in the IWC. This problem is doubly troubling, as many of the other forums have had only limited success in protecting the environmental health of the oceans. This chapter seeks to show the environmental threats, overlaps with other forums and the lacunas that exist. 2 ENVIRONMENTAL THREATS AND CETACEANS The awareness of the threat of environmental degradation began at the IWC in...
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