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 8: Aboriginal Subsistence Whaling

Alexander Gillespie


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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