Whaling Diplomacy
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Whaling Diplomacy

Defining Issues in International Environmental Law

Alexander Gillespie

Whaling Diplomacy is the only book that addresses all of the substantive issues relating to the conservation of whales through the International Whaling Commission (IWC). It covers the law, policy, science and philosophy at the heart of each element of the debate, discussing how it has developed, the current problems that beset it and what is necessary for the future. Together, all of the issues involved in whaling form a single crucible through which the future of conservation in international environmental law is being debated.
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Chapter 1: From the Blue-Whale Unit to the Revised Management Scheme

Alexander Gillespie


The history of whaling has seen over-fishing of one area after another and of one species of whale after another to such a degree that it is essential to protect all species of whales from further over-fishing. (Preamble, International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling, 1946) 1 THE FIRST INTERNATIONAL TREATIES The cetaceans that exist in the early twenty-first century and their respective suborders of Odontocetes and Mysticetes have an evolutionary history dating back over 55 million years.1 Their relationship with humanity during the subsequent periods can only be guessed at. However, by 5,000 years ago, it is clear that some cultures were hunting cetaceans. The first records of a commercial approach to whaling come from the Basque country between France and Spain and date to about AD 900. Basque whalers put out to sea in small boats in pursuit of the Biscayan right whales, which were the ‘right’ whales to pursue because they swam slowly and floated when dead. The whalers took their toll on Biscayan right whales, which have never recovered, and in order to maintain their livelihood the whalers were forced to travel further away. They ventured to Iceland and Greenland and by 1538 were in Newfoundland. The English and the Dutch joined the Basques off Greenland and Iceland, all of them intent on another right whale, the Greenland right or bowhead. Under the pressure of the continuing hunt the number of bowheads declined. By 1630 these whales were rare off Spitzbergen and the whalers shifted...

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