Defining Issues in International Environmental Law
Chapter 2: Management and Numbers
1 INTRODUCTION Before beginning this chapter, it is essential to note that an accurate estimation of whale populations is complicated by manifest uncertainty. This uncertainty pertains not only to difficulties with methods of calculation, but also with mistakes around the calculation (both accidental and deliberate) in the past. As such, all of the following estimates must be taken with a degree of caution. Nevertheless, it may be suggested that some estimates are more reliable than others. Generally speaking, long-term non-lethal studies of whales such as right and humpback appear to generate more reliable population estimates than vessel-based surveys conducted every five years. 2 RIGHT WHALES (EUBALAENA SPP) Complete prohibitions were placed on the taking of certain whales from the outset of international negotiations in 1931. Article 4 of the 1931 Convention on the Regulation of Whaling stated clearly: The taking or killing of Right whales, which shall be deemed to include North-Cape whales, Greenland whales, southern Right whales, Pacific Right whales and southern pygmy Right whales is prohibited.1 This prohibition was incorporated into the ICRW, and was consistently maintained. As such, in 1972 the ban on killing right whales in the Antarctic was renewed with the recommendation that it be ‘continued indefinitely’.2 In 1973, total protection south of the Equator for southern right whales was again accepted,3 reiterated for the North Pacific in 1977 and reaffirmed as worldwide protection in 1978.4 Despite over seventy years of such theoretical protection (that is, these stocks were illegally harvested by the Soviets...
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