Defining Issues in International Environmental Law
New Horizons in Environmental and Energy Law series
Chapter 8: Aboriginal Subsistence Whaling
1 INTRODUCTION Aboriginal hunting of whales protected as endangered species under the ICRW has proved to be an ‘extremely difficult problem’1 for the IWC.2 Although aboriginal whaling may occur outside of the IWC’s jurisdiction,3 the IWC has been the primary organization involved with the issue of aboriginal subsistence whaling (ASW). This category of whaling has traditionally been exempted from the stricter prohibitions on whaling imposed by the IWC. To date, the IWC has dealt with five separate requests to hunt whales under the special provisions of the ASW category. These requests were made by the Russian Federation (for the peoples of the Chukotka peninsula),4 the United States (for the Makah5 and indigenous people in Alaska),6 Denmark (for the peoples of Greenland),7 St. Vincent and the Grenadines,8 and Japan.9 Each claim has been controversial in some way. Difficulties have arisen regarding the role of the specialist body examining the ASW applications, the Steering Committee of the Ad-Hoc Working Group on Subsistence Whaling (steering committee), and with ASW criteria themselves. Specific concerns with the criteria include the debate surrounding the definition of ‘aboriginal’ for ASW purposes, the issue of choice of technology as it affects the potential for ‘humane killing’, caveats of local use and nutritional need, the issue of commercial versus subsistence whaling, and concerns regarding endangered species. Defining the role of culture in the aboriginal whaling debate has also proved problematic. 2 HISTORY OF THE ASW SPECIAL EXEMPTION The concept of a special exception for...
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